June 21, 2022

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Baby formula shelves dwindle as Health Canada announces shortage

Baby formula shelves in Vancouver Island grocery stores are starting to dwindle as Health Canada issued a shortage alert.

The shortage of extensively hydrolyzed formulas, announced Thursday, is straining the already limited supply of amino acid-based products. These are intended for babies at risk of severe allergic reactions.

Health Canada said this is linked to the a recall that closed the Abbott Laboratories plant in Michigan, which manufacturers Similac and Alimentum.

“You only have three manufacturers in the U.S.A. dominating the market. If one goes down of course it affects everyone else,” Sylvain Charlebois, with Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, said.

He said with this shortage, families may be looking for other formula options, making it only a matter of time before other brands and types start to run low.

“As soon as you have fewer products on the market it does put pressure on other types of products as well,” Charlebois added.

Victoria stores are starting to feel the shortage.

Fort Royal Pharmacy stores on Oak Bay and Hillside Avenues have been limiting baby formula purchases to one per customer.

Fort Royal Pharmacy owner Vikram Bawa was not available for an interview but told CHEK News that his baby formula shelves are now empty.

Health Canada has implemented an interim policy allowing formula manufacturers in Europe to ship products to Canada, to try and mitigate shortage issues. The temporary policy is set to expire on June 30th.

In a statement, the health agency said it “will continue to work with manufacturers and will prioritize any infant formula submissions that may be required to respond to unmet public health needs.” it continues to say “if additional safety or supply information is identified, Health Canada will take appropriate action and inform Canadians as needed.”

Health Canada said if an extension of the policy is required, it will consider other options to mitigate the risk of shortages.

Charlebois said the shortage may not last too long as Abbott Laboratories reached an agreement with the Food and Drug Administration to reopen its Michigan plan within the next few weeks.

“A month is a long time for parents, but I suspect probably within the month or so we should start seeing more products on shelves,” said Charlebois.

In the meantime, Health Canada is asking families to speak with their health care providers to find alternative products that will work with their infants. The health agency said families are encouraged to maintain a supply of breast milk if possible, but warns to not acquiring infant formula or breastmilk from unknown sources, such as online groups or third parties.

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