The Canadian Retail Council says a shortage of infant formula in the United States due to large recalls and closures of a manufacturing facility is unlikely to extend to Canada.
This shortage alarmed parents in the United States, prompting debates in the US House of Representatives. But in Canada, the council said the combination of strong private labels and increased imports meant Canadians should be protected from the problem.
Company spokeswoman Michelle Waseline said there are global shortages of some of the raw ingredients that go into making infant formula, but the situation has worsened with the closure of a production facility in the United States.
The facility in Sturgis, Michigan, which is owned by Abbott Laboratories that manufactures infant formula, closed in February after the company recalled several powdered infant formula products due to possible contamination with Chronobacter Sakazaki and salmonella. Currently under investigation by US authorities, the products were sold in Canada and the United States.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said five children were reported to have contracted the disease and were hospitalized after drinking formula, and Chronobacter It may have contributed to the deaths of two of these patients.
In a statement on its website Friday, Abbott said there was no evidence linking formula to infant diseases. Pending FDA approval, the production facility could be up and running within two weeks, with products on shelves within six to eight weeks, the statement said. But in the meantime, retailers have to make do with what they can get elsewhere.
Ms Wasylyshen said Canadian retailers are less affected because their brands often have multiple manufacturing sources. Inland brands source in Canada from major manufacturers such as Abbott, but also from competitors.
“A major pullback from a major brand is having a more pervasive effect in Canada than we see in the United States,” she said.
Ms Wasilation said specialized formulations for children were particularly affected by the factory shutdown.
There is no immediate and widespread shortage in Canada, says Simon Fraser University business professor, but panic buying could change that.
“Anticipating a deficiency may lead to a deficiency, even if there is no deficiency,” said Faiza Shenizan.
Dr. Sahinyazan said concerned parents can consult pediatricians about potential alternatives and try different brands.
Canada has also increased its imports of infant formula from other parts of the world.
Health Canada is recommending that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency temporarily relax its labeling and composition requirements for a list of 19 products not regularly sold in Canada. Health Canada’s statement said this was done to help prevent and mitigate shortages and to ensure a safe supply of these products.
The products on the list are manufactured in the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Germany, and have been approved or permitted for sale in other jurisdictions that have similar quality and manufacturing standards to those of Canada.
Ms Wasylyshen said these products are not usually found on Canadian shelves due to requirements for English and French labels, or the presence of some additives and other ingredients.
Ms Wasilation said exceptions like this have occurred throughout the pandemic to prevent shortages, noting that the most recent was during last year’s BC floods.
“We had some products that were temporarily allowed to be sold on shelves within British Columbia simply because of the disastrous nature of the situation at the time,” she said.
The temporary policy expires on June 30.
President Joe Biden said this week that the United States, which has seen severe shortages, is also looking to increase imports.
Several major Canadian retailers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on how the shortage would affect them.
In a statement, Walmart Canada said industry-wide supply challenges have been going on for years. While the brand’s latest recall caused inventory to drop, the retail giant said its stores have a solid supply of baby formula available.
Retailers across Canada still sell the formula online.
Reported by Xiao Shu
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