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Calgary parents raise concerns about price hikes in infant formula

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Calgary parents raise concerns about price hikes in infant formula
A year after a baby formula shortage began impacting families in Canada, new parents are still having a hard time finding the products they want. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the increasing cost of infant formula is a growing concern for families. – Mar 24, 2023

Celeste Logan has had a hard time trying to find Enfamil A+ for her 9-month-old daughter.

She had been buying it through Amazon but was notified recently the price of a container was going up by $10.

“It was $37.98 per container, and then this morning I got a notification that it was going up to $47.98,” Logan said.

“We looked last week and we saw that (the price) was going up at Superstore and Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart.”

Logan said she managed to track some of the product down but it was only available at one Calgary Costco location.

“For families that are just entering into their baby journey, I don’t know what some families are going to do. It’s dire out there,” Logan said.

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The problem started last year when an infant formula manufacturing plant in the U.S. closed for several months following a product recall.  That facility produced several products that accounted for a significant portion of the Canadian infant formula market, including Similac.

Although the facility reopened in July, Health Canada says it has not returned to its normal production capacity, increasing the demand for infant formulas produced by other manufacturers.

Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, said parents are desperate and turning to hoarding formula.

“They can’t find any products so when they do find cans they buy a lot. They buy cases, which makes things worse,” said Charlebois.

Charlebois said the price increase comes down to supply and demand.

“It’s really is about demand and the pressure on the products and inventory that are currently low,” Charlebois said.

Health Canada says it’s aware that parents continue to report difficulties locating some products. It has been working with manufacturers to increase the types and amounts of infant formula products available in Canada.

“Even though the situation is not completely back to normal, the shortage of hypoallergenic infant formula has largely subsided, the supply has been relatively stable and needs are being met,” reads a statement from Health Canada.

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“While the total national supply of regular infant formula remains sufficient at this time, we are aware of concerns about finding store-brand or lower-cost infant formulas.”

To help alleviate the lack of certain infant formulas, Health Canada has been working directly with manufacturers to increase the supply of formulas normally found on the Canadian market and to identify alternate products that can be imported from other countries.

Charlebois doesn’t think the situation is going to end anytime soon.

“Many parents have decided to use other products. They do have options.  It’s just as a parent, it’s always tough to change anything that works for your baby,” Charlebois said.

Logan did manage to get a response from Enfamil on Friday regarding the price hike.  The company said “we only pass along cost increases when absolutely necessary.”

“From time to time it is necessary to increase our prices to enable us to live up to our commitment to bring high quality products to the marketplace,” said Enfamil.

More information about formula shortages can be found on the Alberta Health services website.

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