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Learn about the temporary shortage of specialized infant formulas and what you can do.
Update - November 2022
Canada's supply of extensively hydrolysed and amino acid-based formulas is stable. In October 2022, certain extensively hydrolyzed products returned to store shelves. Some products may be out of stock, but alternate formats or comparable products from other brands are usually available.
Imported products that do not have a bilingual label are still available for order at the pharmacy counter while supplies last. Bilingual labelling for these products is available on Health Canada's website and from your pharmacist. Speak to your pharmacist to learn more about the products available for ordering.
Infant formula supply
Since May 2022, there has been a limited supply of hypoallergenic formulas for babies with food allergies and certain medical conditions. These hypoallergenic formulas include:
- extensively hydrolyzed formulas for babies with moderate food allergies
- amino acid-based formulas for babies with complex or severe food allergies
Specialized infant formulas should be reserved for infants with medical conditions.
Health Canada does not recommend extensively hydrolyzed formulas:
- to prevent food allergies
- for infants who are sensitive to lactose, unless they also have an allergy or another medical condition requiring these formulas
Health Canada has approved certain infant formulas from other countries to be sold in Canada during the shortage. These formulas meet the same safety standards as Canadian products.
For more information, visit Government of Canada: Information for families on the limited supply of infant formula.
How this affects you
During the shortage, pharmacies kept all hypoallergenic formulas behind the counter. Some extensively hydrolyzed products started returning to store shelves in October 2022.
Health Canada allowed certain infant formulas from other countries to be sold in Canada temporarily to alleviate the shortage, including extensively hydrolyzed and amino acid-based formulas. These formulas meet the same safety standards as Canadian products.
If you cannot find your usual infant formula
There are alternatives if your usual formula is not available.
Your baby’s health care provider can help identify alternate infant formula, if necessary, and can provide strategies to help your baby adjust to a new product. Your pharmacist can help order equivalent hypoallergenic products that are not found on shelves.
To get help:
- Speak to a community pharmacist or
- Speak to your baby's health care provider or
- Call 8-1-1 to discuss your baby's needs with a registered dietitian, registered nurse or pharmacist
It's normal for babies to take time adjusting to a new formula. They may become gassy or fussy, but this should improve in a few days. Speak to a health care provider if you have questions. Call 9-1-1 for any severe symptoms, including:
- difficulty breathing
- generalized hives
- loss of consciousness
- severe diarrhea (sometimes with blood in poop)
For more information on symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) and what to do, visit HealthLinkBC's Severe Allergic Reaction (Anaphylaxis).
If you are combining bottle-feeding and breastfeeding, try to maintain your breastmilk supply. Talk to a health care provider if you need advice about an allergen-free diet.
What you should not do
- Do not buy more infant formula than you need
- Do not make homemade infant formula. It can put your baby's health at serious risk
- Do not dilute or water down infant formula to extend its use. This dilutes the nutritional content of the formula and puts your baby's health at risk
- Do not use formula from other countries unless they are approved by Health Canada
- Do not use infant formula from online or unknown sources
- Do not use breast milk from online sources or directly from other individuals
- Do not substitute other beverages for infant formula, such as:
- Cow's milk
- Goat's milk
- Evaporated milk
- Fortified or unfortified plant-based beverages (soy, oat, rice, almond, coconut and cashew)
Where to find help
- Speak to your community pharmacist for support accessing specialized infant formula
- Speak to a health care provider about your baby's needs, possible alternative products and how to transition your baby to them
- Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to speak with a registered dietitian, registered nurse or pharmacist
What caused the shortage of specialized formulas?
A temporary closure of a large manufacturing plant in the U.S. caused a shortage of specialized infant formulas across Canada. It was also caused by a recall of some formulas that the plant produces. The plant re-opened on July 1, 2022, but may not return to full production capacity until 2023. Although the situation is not completely back to normal, the supply of extensively hydrolysed and amino acid-based formulas has stabilized in Canada. Health Canada continues to monitor the availability of infant formula products closely.
Last Updated: November 17, 2022