Health Canada says the country is facing a shortage of baby formula made for infants with food allergies and some medical conditions due to a safety-related closure of a large manufacturing plant in the United States that is affecting global supplies.
In a statement on Thursday, the agency said certain provinces were running low on supplies of extensively hydrolyzed infant formulas and amino acid-based formulas.
“Health Canada is monitoring the supply situation and is working with manufacturers to import this product where possible,” the statement said.
Health Canada said it is working to provide parents with safe and healthy options. It has recommended that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) allow the importation and sale of products approved by foreign regulatory authorities until June 30.
The shortage comes after Abbott recalled in February several major brands and shut down its Sturgis, Mich., factory when federal officials concluded four babies suffered bacterial infections after consuming powdered infant formula from the facility. Two of the infants died.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has listed roughly 50 products of Similac, EleCare and Alimentum that are included in the Abbott recall. Twenty products are included in the recall that was issued by the CFIA on Feb. 17.
The head of the FDA told lawmakers Thursday that Abbott Nutrition’s Michigan formula plant, the largest in the U.S., could be up and running as soon as next week.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to speed the production of infant formula and authorized flights to import supply from overseas.
In Canada, because different retailers use different supply chains, the impact can vary from one to another, Michelle Wasylyshen, national spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada, previously told Global News.
Canadian retailer Loblaw said last week that it was experiencing “supply issues” for one brand of baby formula due to the recall.
“While this has left holes in our shelves, we do have a good supply of formula from our other vendors,” Loblaw told Global News.
Dos and don'ts
Infant formula is used as a breast milk substitute to feed children less than a year old.
Amid the shortages, Health Canada is advising parents who are combining bottle-feeding and breastfeeding to maintain the breastmilk supply.
The agency says infant formula should not be created at home as it can put the baby’s health at risk.
It is also advising against the use of other substitutes such as cow’s milk, goat’s milk, evaporated milk, soy or rice beverages as “they are not nutritionally complete.”
Parents should avoid buying in bulk and not acquire the products from unknown sources, such as online groups or third parties, Health Canada says.
It recommends reserving specialty infant formulas for those infants with medical conditions.
Possible alternative products can be considered after consulting a health-care professional, the agency says.
— with files from The Associated Press