Health Canada warns of formula shortage for babies with food allergies
Health Canada says there is currently a shortage in this country of infant formula designed for babies with food allergies and certain medical conditions amid a serious shortage in the United States.
In an advisory issued Thursday, the health agency said the two types of products affected in Canada at present are extensively hydrolyzed infant formulas and amino acid-based formulas.
"In certain provinces, the supply of these products is not meeting demand," Health Canada warned in the statement.
These formulas are "critical" for babies who are at risk of anaphylactic allergic reactions, and Health Canada is asking that the consumption of these products be facilitated by doctors "only to babies who require them."
The agency says the infant formula shortage in the United States, caused by a major recall and subsequent closure of a production plant, has resulted in a global shortage.
Abbott recalled a number of its powdered Similac products in February after four babies, two of whom died, contracted a bacterial infection thought to be connected to a formula manufacturing facility in Michigan. Tests on the products have come back negative for contaminants in question, Abbott said on Friday.
The company had previously indicated that it could take six to eight weeks after the plant – which remains closed four months after the recall – restarts for products to make it to the shelves. However, the head of the Food and Drug Administration told American lawmakers Thursday the facility could be back up and running as soon next week.
Health Canada acknowledged that this can be a "distressing situation" and said it is "doing everything it can" to mitigate its impact and provide parents with safe, healthy alternatives.
To help ease the impact of the shortage, Health Canada said it is monitoring formula supply and working with manufacturers to import products similar to that of the extensively hydrolyzed and amino acid-based formulas.
The agency has published an interim policy to help facilitate the importation of "equivalent and safe" formulas that have been approved by a foreign regulatory health authority, or are allowed to be sold in a foreign jurisdiction with quality and manufacturing standards similar to Canada.
"If additional safety or supply information is identified, Health Canada will take appropriate action and inform Canadians as needed," the agency said.
Health Canada says those parents who may be concerned about the shortage should consult their family doctor or a pharmacist about their baby's needs and possible alternative products.
If combining bottle-feeding and breastfeeding, the agency suggests trying to maintain breast milk supply and to consult a health-care professional if advice on an allergen-free diet is required.
Health Canada says parents should not use substitutes such as cow's milk, goat's milk, evaporated milk, soy or rice beverages as they are "not nutritionally complete" for an infant.
"Do not attempt to make homemade infant formula as it can put your baby's health at risk. Commercial infant formula contains many important nutrients that cannot be created at home," the agency said.
The agency advises against acquiring infant formula or breast milk from unknown sources, such as online groups.
With a file from CTVNews.ca's Solarina Ho