Baby formula supply shortages in the US have started to have an effect on Canadian families, which are now struggling to procure breastmilk substitutes.
A baby-food crisis recently hit the US as already existing supply chain issues were exacerbated by a major product recall by Abbott Nutrition, which voluntarily pulled from shelves three of its brands of powdered baby formula after reports of bacterial infection and illness among infant consumers, including two who died.
In the US, nearly 40% of infant formula is now out of stock in over 11,000 stores, according to reports by online retail analyst Datasembly, which has led to increased demand for the product, as some retailers have even introduced rationing to combat hoarding.
While major Canadian retailers say they haven’t been experiencing widespread shortages yet, smaller store chains have reported issues with stocks. The national spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada told local media that some stores have struggled to maintain a steady supply of formula since 2021.
Loblaws, a supermarket chain in Canada, has stated that the supply chain issues and Abbott recall have left holes in its shelves and affected its ability to stock certain kinds of formula, CBC reports. The company noted, however, that it had so far managed to find alternatives and procure formulas from other vendors.
Nevertheless, some Canadian families are still finding it increasingly challenging to secure alternatives to Abbott’s hypoallergenic formula and sometimes end up having to drive hundreds of kilometers, or even across the US-Canada border, to procure the product for their children.
Meanwhile, experts have warned that it’s imperative for Canadians to not panic over the shortages, as has been happening in the US, as it may only serve to worsen the crisis. Michelle Pensa Branco, co-founder of Safely Fed Canada, has urged parents to remain calm, not feel attached to any particular brand of baby formula and consult with their pediatricians to find alternative brands. Parents are also advised to supplement their infant’s diet with more breastmilk and move towards solid foods as soon as possible.
“I want to discourage people from doing things like buying up a whole bunch of formula and storing it aside,” said Pensa Branco in an interview with CTV News.
She also highlighted the fact that some families are sticking to specialty formula despite their children not actually needing it, saying that “a good number of parents using these products don’t have a diagnosis of dairy allergy.“ She added that some parents are using the specialty formulas simply because of advice from friends or out of an overabundance of caution.
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