BC takes steps to protect supply of specialized infant formulas

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June 17, 2022

To protect the supply of specialized infant formulas, the Ministry of Health has issued guidelines to pharmacies asking them to keep these formulas behind the counter.

This will help preserve supply during the temporary countrywide shortage of these formulas, ensuring availability for families who need them.

There is no shortage of regular infant formulas in B.C.

However, there is a shortage of specialized hypoallergenic infant formulas for babies with food allergies and certain medical conditions. This includes extensively hydrolyzed formulas and amino acid-based formulas.

Manufacturers are distributing hypoallergenic formulas for public purchase exclusively to pharmacies until the supply stabilizes. The Ministry of Health encourages people to remain in regular contact with their local pharmacy to ensure they have the formula they need.

Experts estimate that a small proportion of infants, generally less than 2%, need hypoallergenic formulas. Some families that use these formulas may be able to switch to less specialized products in consultation with a health-care provider. People can speak with their infant’s health-care provider or call 811 to discuss their infant’s needs with a registered dietitian, registered nurse or pharmacist.

At pharmacies, parents/caregivers can speak with a pharmacist who will help guide them toward the formula they need. If a hypoallergenic infant formula is needed, families will generally be limited to purchasing seven to 10 days’ supply. If people face barriers to accessing pharmacies, such as living in a remote community, pharmacists can make exceptions.

This temporary shortage is affecting all of Canada. It was caused by Abbott’s interim closure of its formula manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Mich., and voluntary recall of certain formulas produced there. The facility reopened on June 4, 2022, and specialized infant formulas will gradually become more available in the coming months.

Health Canada has also allowed certain infant formulas from other countries to be sold in Canada during the shortage. These formulas meet the same safety standards as Canadian products.

The B.C. Ministry of Health’s guidelines will be in place until the formula supply stabilizes. The ministry has been regularly meeting with Health Canada, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and members of the health-care community to manage the shortage and ensure families who need specialized infant formulas can get rapid and equitable access to it.

Health Canada has produced information for families about the temporary shortage and measures they can take, which can be found online: canada.ca/infant-formula-shortage