Retailers say the massive recall of infant formula in the United States is having an impact on Canadian supplies. But Canadian parents can breathe easy — for now.
While supply chain problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have affected supplies over the past year, the recent shutdown of a major production facility in Michigan has made the situation worse, Canadian retailers say.
In February, Abbott recalled several major brands and closed its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, when federal officials concluded that four children had contracted a bacterial infection after ingesting infant formula powder from the facility. Two children died.
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The shutdown has left American parents scrambling to find baby formula. But the same level of shortage in Canada we haven’t seen yet.
“Some retailers have reported that the vast majority of this section (baby milk) in their stores is stocked,” said Michelle Waseline, a national spokeswoman for the Canadian Retail Council.
According to Wasylyshen, retailers say formula supply has been an ongoing problem since mid-2021, but that it has become “significantly worse” since Abbott pulled out and closed its largest US plant.
“Abbott is still not shipping any SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) affected by the recall,” Global News said in an email on Tuesday.
“The stock holding units of the specialized formula with no substitutes have been affected over the past nine months.”
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Canadian retailer Luplow said it was experiencing “supply problems” for one brand of infant formula because it had been recalled. The company did not respond to a request from Global News to identify the brand by press time.
“Although this has left holes in our shelves, we have a good supply of formula from other vendors,” said Loblau.
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Walmart Canada says industry-wide supply challenges with the product – which is used as a breastmilk substitute for feeding babies under a year old – “has persisted for a number of years”.
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“Despite these challenges, we continue to work closely with our suppliers to secure robust supplies of infant formula across several brands and formats (concentrates, powders and ready-to-feed), to make them available for sale in-store and online,” a Walmart spokesperson told Global News on Tuesday. .
In the US, major retailers including CVS and Walgreens have begun to limit purchases to three containers per customer to try to keep formula in stock.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the FDA is “working around the clock to address any potential shortages.”
The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement on Tuesday that it is working with US manufacturers to increase their production and simplify paperwork to allow for more imports.
“Ensuring the availability of safe, single-source nutrition products such as infant formula is of paramount importance to the Food and Drug Administration,” said Robert M. Califf, commissioner of the agency.
Across the United States, about 40 percent of large retail stores are out of stock, up from 31 percent in mid-April, according to Datasembly, a data analytics company.
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The FDA has listed nearly 50 Similac, EleCare and Alimentum products that were included in Abbott’s recall.
Abbott said Wednesday it may resume production at the Michigan facility within two weeks, subject to Food and Drug Administration approval.
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RCC Canada’s Wasylyshen said that since different retailers use different supply chains, the effect can vary from one to the other.
Last month, a maker of infant formula in Kingston, Ontario struck a deal with goat farmers in Ontario and Quebec for a steady supply of one of its key ingredients. The deal will provide goat milk for the Royal Canada Milk Factory.
In 2019, Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. Kirkland Signature Non-GMO Infant Formula for children who are lactose intolerant due to possible contamination with Cronobacter bacteria.
– With files from the Associated Press, Canadian Press and Reuters
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