Families struggle to get access to specialty formula as supply chain issues hit North America
Shortages of formula milk supplies in the United States have begun to have an effect on Canadian families, who now struggle to afford breastmilk substitutes.
A baby food crisis hit the United States recently as already existing supply chain issues were exacerbated by a major product recall by Abbott Nutrition, which voluntarily pulled three of its formula brands off the shelves in baby powder after reports of bacterial infection and illness in infant consumers, two of whom died.
In the United States, nearly 40% of infant formula is now out of stock in more than 11,000 stores, according to reports by online retail analyst Datasembly, which has led to an increase in demand for the product, with some retailers even introducing rationing to combat hoarding.
While large Canadian retailers say they have yet to experience widespread shortages, smaller chain stores have reported inventory issues. The national spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada told local media that some stores have struggled to maintain a steady supply of infant formula since 2021.
Loblaws, a supermarket chain in Canada, said supply chain issues and Abbott’s recall left holes in its shelves and affected its ability to stock certain types of formula, CBC reports. The company noted, however, that it has so far been successful in finding alternatives and sourcing formulas from other vendors.
Nevertheless, some Canadian families are still finding it increasingly difficult to find alternatives to Abbott’s hypoallergenic formula and sometimes end up having to travel hundreds of miles, or even cross the Canada-US border, to obtain the product for their children.
Meanwhile, experts have warned that it is imperative that Canadians do not panic over shortages, as has happened in the United States, as this can only worsen the crisis. Michelle Pensa Branco, co-founder of Safely Fed Canada, urged parents to stay calm, not feel attached to a particular brand of formula, and to consult with their pediatricians about alternative brands. Parents are also advised to supplement their infant’s diet with more breast milk and switch to solid foods as soon as possible.
“I want to discourage people from doing things like buying a whole bunch of formula and putting it away,” said Pensa Branco in an interview with CTV News.
She also pointed to the fact that some families stick to formula when their children don’t really need it, saying that “A good number of parents using these products do not have a diagnosis of dairy allergy.” She added that some parents use the specialty formulas simply because of advice from friends or out of an abundance of caution.