Sunflower oil shortage could impact baby formula supply, Health Canada says

Click to play video: 'Baby formula shortage in U.S. becoming crisis for parents'
Baby formula shortage in U.S. becoming crisis for parents
WATCH: Baby formula shortage in U.S. becoming crisis for parents – May 14, 2022

Health Canada says it is preparing for the possibility that a shortage of sunflower oil could further strain baby formula supplies in Canada.

The federal agency says it’s “working closely with manufacturers” that rely on sunflower oil as a key ingredient to produce formula that still meets Canadian standards.

That includes efforts to speed up evaluation of any ingredient substitutions, noting that a switch “is considered a major change and it must undergo pre-market assessment.”

Ukraine and Russia together export half of the world’s sunflower oil, but the ongoing war has seen Russian invaders accused of blocking Ukrainian ports and preventing food staples from leaving.

In the meantime, Health Canada says it will extend a temporary plan to import more baby formula from Europe and the United States to bolster domestic supplies.

Story continues below advertisement

The plan to bring 20 infant formulas approved for use in Europe and the United States currently expires June 30. The federal agency says in an emailed statement that “the interim policy will be extended” but did not elaborate.

Click to play video: 'Biden faces criticism abroad as baby formula shortage, inflation create issues ahead of US midterms'
Biden faces criticism abroad as baby formula shortage, inflation create issues ahead of US midterms

The national spokeswoman for the Retail Council of Canada says they’ve been told the order will be extended to Dec. 30, 2022.

Last week, the federal agency acknowledged a shortage of infant formulas designed for babies with food allergies and certain medical conditions.

A massive product recall in February led to the shutdown of Abbott Nutrition’s Michigan plant, exacerbating pandemic-era supply chain woes and depleting stock in the United States.

While not as severe here, the Retail Council of Canada says its members have also experienced shortages, and in response restricted online orders and in-person purchases to meet demand.

Story continues below advertisement

Health Canada says the measures are all in service of mitigating further strain on Canadian formula supplies.

“Due to the urgency of the situation, and the critical nature of these products, Health Canada is monitoring the situation closely, and working with manufacturers in regards to infant formula supplies,” the agency said in a statement emailed late last week.

“If additional safety or supply information is identified, Health Canada will take appropriate action and inform Canadians as needed.”

Health Canada introduced the interim order to extend imports March 10, in a bid “to prevent and mitigate shortages,” listing several formulas that grew to 20 by May 9 with the addition of a liquid Enfamil product.

The agency recommended that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency temporarily lift food labelling and “composition requirements” for products from the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany that are otherwise comparable to Canadian standards.

Sponsored content