Information for families on the limited supply of infant formula

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Current Situation

The supply of infant formula in Canada is currently limited. An important infant formula manufacturing facility in the United States closed for several months following a product recall in February 2022. This facility produced several popular products that accounted for a significant portion of the Canadian infant formula market. Although the facility reopened in July, it has not yet returned to its normal production capacity. This has increased the demand for infant formulas produced by other manufacturers.

The situation was critical during the summer of 2022 for specialized infant formula, including formula for babies with allergies. Health Canada mitigated the shortage by facilitating the importation of formula from other countries and recommending that specialized formulas be ordered through a pharmacist to make sure they were available for babies who needed them for medical reasons. The shortage of hypoallergenic formulas has now largely subsided and is replaced by a limited, but stable supply.

For regular infant formulas, the total supply remains sufficient to feed all Canadian babies. There are however fewer products and formats available, as manufacturers work to compensate for an increased demand for their products. In particular, the lower cost options, such as store brand powdered formulas, have often been out of stock since the fall of 2022. Although comparable products from other brands continue to be available, these may be more expensive, and this can be challenging for families who are also facing other pressures.

Health Canada is working closely with infant formula manufacturers to increase product supply, including those intended for hospitals and special medical use that are not available at retail. The Department also continues to collaborate with provinces and territories, and with the healthcare community, to minimize the impacts of this situation on Canadian families.

Types of infant formula

Regular infant formula

These types of products include non-hydrolyzed formulas for healthy babies and partially hydrolyzed formulas for babies with gastrointestinal discomfort. They are found on shelves in retail stores and pharmacies, and are also available to order through online retailers and on manufacturer websites.

Hypoallergenic infant formula

These types of products include extensively hydrolyzed formulas and amino acid-based formulas. For several months in 2022, these specialized products could only be purchased through a pharmacist.

Supplies of extensively hydrolysed and amino acid-based formulas have now stabilized in Canada. Therefore, starting in late October 2022, certain extensively hydrolyzed products began returning to store shelves, at the discretion of manufacturers. The products that were imported from other countries during the shortage and that do not have a bilingual label will continue to be available for order at the pharmacy counter while supplies last. Bilingual labelling for these products is available on Health Canada's website and from your pharmacist.

Speak to your pharmacist to learn more about the products available for ordering.

Extensively hydrolyzed formulas are generally used for mild to moderately severe allergies.

Brand names currently available on store shelves in Canada include:

Speak to your pharmacist to order additional products temporarily imported from other countries to alleviate the shortage, including:

Amino acid-based formulas are recommended for severe allergies that are life-threatening and are usually available by prescription. These will remain behind the pharmacy counter.

Brand names normally found in Canada include:

Additional products temporarily imported from other countries to alleviate the shortage include:

Health Canada does not recommend extensively hydrolyzed formulas for:

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

There are alternatives if your usual formula is not available. Speak to your healthcare professional if you need help finding the best option for your situation. Speak to your pharmacist to order equivalent hypoallergenic products that are not found on shelves.

Also, some manufacturers have toll-free phone numbers or live chat features on their website that may provide assistance to locate their products.

Do

Don't

Speak to a healthcare provider

Discuss your baby's needs with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a:

They can help recommend possible formula substitutes and strategies to 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.

Explore breastfeeding resources

If you can, breastfeed your baby. Breast milk is the best choice for most babies with or without food allergies. If you stopped breastfeeding within the past 6 weeks, consider restarting. If you combine bottle-feeding and breastfeeding, try to maintain or increase your breast milk supply.

There are plenty of resources that can help you. Many people can give support and advice, including:

You can also talk to a registered dietitian if you're breastfeeding and need to follow a diet that avoids specific allergens.

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

Learn more:

Try a different formula

All infant formulas approved in Canada are safe and provide the nutrition your baby needs. Some infant formulas are available in several formats, such as powder, ready-to-feed, or liquid concentrate. In addition, some manufacturers are focusing production on larger size containers to increase output, so your usual formula may be available in a different container than you usually buy. If you cannot locate your usual infant formula, consider an alternate size, format or different brand of infant formula.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider first if your infant has allergies or medical conditions impacting their feeding, or if you have concerns.

Formula Switching Tips

Some families find that these strategies help their baby adjust to a new formula. Your healthcare provider can tell you if these or other strategies are right for you.

Continue with a trial of any new formula for at least 7 to 14 days unless severe symptoms occur, such as:

Try formula from another country

Health Canada has allowed certain infant formulas from other countries to be sold in Canada temporarily to alleviate the shortage, including extensively hydrolyzed and amino acid-based formulas. These formulas must meet the same rigorous safety standards as Canadian products to be added to the list of authorized products.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider for advice on whether your infant can try any of these formulas. Your pharmacist can help you find these products.

Learn more:

Speak to a pharmacist

Some extensively hydrolyzed and amino acid-based formulas can only be ordered at the pharmacy counter. Talk to your pharmacist to learn about these products.

Health Canada provided information to support pharmacists:

Once you order hypoallergenic formula from your pharmacist, it may take a few days for them to receive the order. It is best to reach out to your pharmacist before you run out of supply.

Learn more:

Feed your baby safely

Do not try to make homemade infant formula. It can put your infant's health at serious risk. Commercial infant formula contains many important nutrients that can't be recreated at home. Follow label instructions for preparing infant formula.

Do not dilute or water down your infant formula to extend its use. This dilutes the nutritional content of the formula and can put your infant's health at risk.

Other beverages are not substitutes for infant formula. This includes:

These substitutes do not meet the nutritional needs of infants.

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

Learn more:

About the limited supply

On February 17, 2022, Abbott initiated a voluntary recall of powder infant formulas produced at its facility in Sturgis, Michigan. This facility was closed on the same day.

The facility supplied a large amount of powdered infant formulas in the US, Canada and many other countries, and its closure resulted in important market disruptions.

The plant re-opened on July 1, 2022 but is not expected to return to full production capacity until sometime in 2023. The supply of infant formula will likely remain limited until this facility is back to normal.

Health Canada is monitoring the availability of infant formula products closely and continues to take action to minimize the effects on Canadian families.

We meet regularly with manufacturers, distributors, retailers and the health care community to:

Learn more:

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