April 20, 2023 Message from the Bureau of Nutritional Sciences/Food Directorate of Health Canada:
Canada continues to experience disruptions in the supply of certain types of infant formula. While the Abbott manufacturing facility in Sturgis (Michigan) has reopened, production is expected to remain below historical levels until the second half of 2023. This facility produced several products that accounted for a significant portion of the Canadian infant formula market. The prolonged absence of these products destabilized the market and increased the demand for infant formulas produced by other manufacturers.
As you are aware, this situation resulted in important supply disruptions that affected different types of formula over the course of the year. Disruptions first affected formula for babies with food allergies and other medical conditions. Health Canada addressed this shortage by facilitating the importation of formula from other countries through its interim policy and working with pharmacists for many months to make sure these were reserved for babies who needed them for medical reasons. These conservation measures have since been lifted, as the shortage of hypoallergenic formulas has now largely subsided.
However, the supply of regular infant formula has been strained since last Fall. Although the supply of liquid formulations has been relatively stable, powders are more popular and are more often out of stock. This situation is anticipated to continue for the weeks to come. We wish to reassure you that Health Canada continues to work closely with manufacturers to facilitate the increase of production of formulas that are already found on the Canadian market and to find additional options for importation under the interim policy.
Health Canada’s engagement with manufacturers resulted in the importation of a powdered regular formula listed under the interim policy (U.S formulation of Similac Advance), which is found on shelves at retailers and pharmacies across the country since late February. This new powdered formula brings an additional option to consumers.
Additional powdered formulas eligible for importation under the interim policy are expected to enter the market starting in late May to further strengthen the overall supply. These products, described in detail in table accessed here. They include U.S. formulations of products currently available in Canada (Enfamil Neuropro, Similac Total Comfort) as well as new players on the Canadian market (Modilac Precision, Modilac Rice, Kendamil Classic, Kendamil Goat and Kendamil Organic).
These are well established brands in Europe and the United States, which are jurisdictions that have high manufacturing and regulatory standards that are similar to Canada. These products will therefore provide nutritious and safe alternatives for families looking for a stable supply. Some of these products have English only labels and will include label information that may be unfamiliar to Canadians, such as preparation instructions using ounces instead of milliliters. Bilingual labels that include units and other content normally found on Canadian labels will be available in Appendix A of our interim policy, and made available at retailers as well.
We recognize that you play an important front-line role as many concerned parents come to you for advice. We therefore prepared an information package containing resources that complement information found on the Health Canada webpage dedicated to the infant formula supply. Please feel free to distribute these broadly within your networks.
- A printable fact sheet for families summarizing information found on our webpage (accessed here)
- A list of new products or formulations to be imported under Health Canada’s interim policy in the coming months (accessed here)
- An infant formula summary sheet prepared by Alberta Health, to help you advise parents that cannot locate their usual product (online)