Information for families on the limited supply of infant formula

Canadian families experienced a limited supply of infant formula for several months in 2022 and 2023 due to considerable market disruptions following a four-month closure of the Abbott Nutrition manufacturing facility in Sturgis (Michigan, USA). This closure disrupted the supply and the availability of various infant formula products in the United States and in Canada. Supply constraints in Canada were initially limited to specialized formula, and more recently, affected primarily regular infant formula powders. As of September 2023, the Canadian supply of regular formula is stabilizing.

In addition to brands already available to Canadians, a steady supply of powdered regular formula from other countries continues to be imported under the interim policy, including brands that are new to the Canadian market.

We share your concerns

We understand that supply disruptions can be distressing. Your usual formula may not be available when you need it, and switching formula may not be easy to do. We recognize that more affordable products may quickly disappear from store shelves, and this can be challenging for families who may also be facing other pressures.

Rest assured that improving the safe supply of infant formula is of the highest importance to the Department. In March 2023, a ministerial roundtable discussion convened decision makers from industry and key healthcare partners to underscore the importance of this issue, and to call upon industry to strengthen the supply of formula.

As a result of this action, in addition to the tools and strategies already implemented by Health Canada, new regular formulas have become available in retail stores and pharmacies across the country, and more are expected in late 2023.

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What you can do if you cannot find your usual infant formula



Trying a new formula

If you cannot find your usual formula, a different size or format of your usual brand, or a formula from a different brand, may also meet your needs.

Health Canada has facilitated the temporary importation of formula to improve supply. New regular infant formulas are now found in retail stores and pharmacies across the country and more are expected later in the fall.

Although these may be brands that are new to the Canadian market, these products are safe and provide adequate nutrition for infants. All products eligible for temporary importation were reviewed by Health Canada scientists and come from countries that have quality and manufacturing standards which are comparable to those in Canada.

It is not necessary to consult your baby's doctor before switching formula unless your baby has special needs (food allergies for example). Registered dietitians and nurse practitioners can provide advice to support you as you change formulas or transition them into your baby's diet.

If you cannot access your regular health care provider for timely advice, contact the Telehealth service in your province or territory or speak to your local pharmacist.

Formula switching tips

We know that changing formula can be challenging. Some families may find this information useful when their baby is adjusting to a new formula:

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Feed your baby safely

Do not make homemade infant formula. It can put your infant's health at serious risk. Commercial infant formula contains many important nutrients that would not be present in homemade formula.

Do not dilute or water down your infant formula to extend its use. This reduces the nutritional content of the formula and can put your infant's health at risk. Follow label instructions for preparing infant formula.

Other beverages are not substitutes for infant formula. These substitutes do not meet the nutritional needs of infants. Examples include:

Health Canada does not recommend using human breast milk obtained online or directly from other individuals.

There is generally no need to keep using formula if your child is healthy and over 12 months old.

Learn more:

Other resources:

Cost considerations

Although the cost of infant formulas is not regulated by Health Canada, we understand that it is an important consideration when choosing a new formula. It can sometimes be difficult to know which products are more affordable because of the different sizes and formats of formula, such as powder, liquid concentrate, or ready-to-feed.

On a per feed basis, the cost of liquid concentrates can sometimes be comparable to powders, whereas ready-to feed formula is generally more expensive. The following information can help you calculate the cost per feed for powdered infant formula and liquid concentrate:

What Health Canada is doing

Health Canada continues to take this situation very seriously and has been working diligently behind the scenes to minimize the impacts of the limited supply of infant formulas on Canadian families.

Improving supply

Health Canada continues to work closely with manufacturers to maintain a stable supply of infant formulas normally found in the Canadian market and until market disruptions are fully resolved. In addition, Health Canada's interim policy has been an essential tool to mitigate the shortages by facilitating the importation of formula from countries which hold comparably high quality and manufacturing standards. Health Canada made it easy for manufacturers to propose new products for temporary importation and the review is accelerated so they can quickly be made accessible to Canadian families.

More than 70 products are currently eligible for temporary importation under this policy, and the list is updated regularly. New products continue to be added to the list to help strengthen the supply where needed. Products imported under the interim policy include formula sold at retail stores and pharmacies as well as products that are reserved for medical use.

Learn more:

Sharing information

Health Canada has played an important convener role, engaging with a wide range of different stakeholders and promoting a collaborative approach.

Looking towards the future

Supply constraints for infant formula that Canada has experienced since 2022 have highlighted the need for a more diversified supply to enable a more resilient market in a context where supply chain disruptions and inflation are increasing. Health Canada has taken some steps to support this diversity. For example:

Learn more:

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