Infant formula shortage – Information for pharmacy professionals
Canada is experiencing a limited supply of infant formula. Parents and caregivers may experience difficulties locating particular products or formats. The temporary closure of an important formula manufacturing facility in the United States in February 2022, which has yet to return to its normal production capacity, has led to increased demand for infant formulas produced by other manufacturers. For more information: www.canada.ca/infantformulashortage.
The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) has been involved in discussions with Health Canada and others over the past year to stay updated as the situation evolves and ensure that pharmacy is represented in the conversations.
Current supply situation
While the shortage primarily impacted specialized infant formula throughout 2022, the current supply issues are now primarily impacting regular infant formula.
Specialized infant formula: Canada experienced a critical shortage of specialized formula (Extensively hydrolyzed formula and amino acid-based) in the summer of 2022 that was managed carefully by Health Canada and other stakeholders, including pharmacists. Formula was imported from countries with similar manufacturing practices and standards to help alleviate the shortage. That shortage has generally subsided and a limited, but stable supply is available across the country.
Regular infant formula: According to Health Canada, while the total supply remains sufficient to feed all babies in Canada, there are fewer products and formats available. Parents and caregivers may have difficulty locating particular products and formats, particularly lower-cost store-brand or powdered formula options. Families may seek guidance from pharmacists to understand the limited supply, and to identify an appropriate alternate product should their regular formula be unavailable. The following resources may be useful in assisting families:
- A printable fact sheet for families summarizing the information found on Health Canada’s webpage.
- An infant formula summary sheet prepared by Alberta Health, to help you advise parents that cannot locate their usual product.
In addition to working with manufacturers to increase the supply of formulas normally found on the Canadian market, Health Canada continues to identify alternate products that can be imported from other countries.
While a number of products have been imported over the past year to alleviate the shortage of specialty, hypoallergenic infant formula, recent importation efforts have focused on regular infant formula.
Powdered regular formulas imported under the interim policy are reaching shelves at pharmacies and other retailers across the country to help alleviate some of the pressures experienced by families in Canada. For products with unilingual labels, pharmacists may play a key role in directing consumers to bilingual label information online, or printed handouts.
- Imported products - List and label information: Health Canada has published a list of products imported under its Interim Policy. The list also includes printable labels in both official languages where applicable. The list continues to be updated as the situation evolves, and you are encouraged to consult it regularly. Note: Pharmacists should use their discretion on how best to use and distribute these bilingual labels.
- Upcoming importations: A list of new products or formulations to be imported under Health Canada’s interim policy in the coming months
- Information for families on the limited supply of infant formula: The situation is distressing for some families who will turn to pharmacists for help. Pharmacists should be prepared to answer questions. Health Canada has published information that health-care professionals can use to facilitate their discussions with parents and caregivers. It includes tips about what to do and what not to do while supplies are limited and useful information on possible alternative approaches and products.
- Fact sheet for families: A printable fact sheet for families summarizing the information found on Health Canada’s webpage.
- Infant Formulas - Summary Sheet: An infant formula summary sheet prepared by Alberta Health, to help you advise parents that cannot locate their usual product
- Typical Formula Consumption Amounts for Healthy Term Infants: A tool for health professionals on estimated typical consumptions of formulas by healthy term infants.
Last updated: April 20, 2023