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Baby formula shortage hits Canada — Analysis

North American supply-chain problems are causing families to struggle for specialty baby formula.

Canadian parents are finding it difficult to obtain breastmilk substitutes due to US shortages of baby formula.

The US was recently struck by a baby food crisis. Already existing supply chain problems were further exacerbated when Abbott Nutrition pulled three brands of powdered infant formula from shelves after receiving reports of illness and bacterial infections among baby consumers. Two of these babies died.

According to Datasembly’s online retail analyst, almost 40% of US infant formula stock is out of stock at over 11,000 US stores. This has caused increased demand and some retailers even implemented rationing in an effort to reduce hoarding. 

While major Canadian retailers say they haven’t been experiencing widespread shortages yet, smaller store chains have reported issues with stocks. According to the Retail Council of Canada’s national spokesperson, some Canadian stores are having trouble maintaining a constant supply of formula since 2021.

Loblaws is a Canadian supermarket chain that claims the Abbott recall and supply chain problems have caused gaps in its shelves, CBC reports. This has affected their ability to stock specific types of formula. However, the company stated that they had been able to source formulas from different vendors and find alternative solutions.

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 advised parents not to get too attached to any one brand of baby food and encouraged them to talk to their doctor about other brands. Parents are also advised to supplement their infant’s diet with more breastmilk and move towards solid foods as soon as possible.

“I don’t want people to buy a lot of formula, and then store it away.”Pensa Branco spoke in an interview to CTV News.

Additionally, she highlighted that specialty formulas are sometimes used by some families even though their children don’t need them. “a good number of parents using these products don’t have a diagnosis of dairy allergy.“Her comments included that parents may use specialty formulas because they have been advised by friends, or simply out of an excess of caution.

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