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'It's a necessary product': Some parents still struggling to find infant formula


When Alicia Willar became a first-time mom in September, she knew she'd have a lot of new experiences.

However, she didn't expect struggling to find baby formula for her daughter would be one of them.

“And then all of the sudden I started her on formula and I was finding it hard to find,” says Willar. “I logged into the mom groups and it's a problem that we're all facing.”

Twelve-week-old Autumn has lactose sensitivity, which means Willar needs a particular type of formula.

She recently managed to find two tubs of her preferred store brand after a dash to a local Walmart, but once she runs out, she may have to switch to what she can find.

“But some moms, their babies are so sensitive, they're not able to do so, and some just can't afford it, because it's three times the price of the store brand,” says Willar.

Experts say the lack of formula on the shelves is continuing fallout from a critical shortage earlier this year after major U.S. manufacturer Abbott Laboratories, which makes the Similac, Alimentum and EleCare varieties, had to temporarily shut down its plant in Sturgis, Mich., due to bacteria contamination. That led the company to voluntarily recall powered formulas.

With those products pulled from shelves, the makers of generic store brands then struggled to make up the difference.

“There's some products out there, but prices have jumped dramatically because of supply chain pressures,” says Sylvain Charlebois of the Dalhousie Agri-Food Analytics Lab.

Charlebois says Canadian retailers rely on those manufacturers south of the border, and those companies are now focusing on restocking domestic retailers first.

Earlier this year, Health Canada approved some formulas to be imported from both the U.S. and the Netherlands to alleviate shortages, a measure that has been extended until the end of next year.

“Unfortunately, the bad news is that we're expecting shortages to continue, until probably mid-2023,” says Charlebois.

Health Canada says any parent having trouble finding their usual formula should speak to a health professional about available alternatives.

It also warns parents not to make homemade formula, or water down formula, which both can put a child's health at risk.

The Retail Council of Canada says stores are doing what they can make sure there’s supply available.

“Things are getting better, but we're still supply-chain challenged,” says Atlantic director Jim Cormier.

“We are hearing that hypoallergenic infant formula product, they’ve returned to the shelves, amino acid formulas are still available but behind the counter,” he adds.

Cormier says some stores may have to limit purchase amounts for now.

“Buy what you need and ensure there is enough there for everybody,” he says. “Because obviously when it comes to infant formula, that’s a necessary product.

In the meantime, Willar and other parents have connected in an online Facebook group, called “Formula Nova Scotia,” to help each other find what they need.

“We post photos of the store that we’re currently at, and what’s in stock there,” she says.

Something they may have to keep doing for at least another year. Top Stories

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