‘Detrimental to the health of vulnerable Canadians’: Health Canada seeks solution to formula shortage

By Andrew Cowie and Peter Wagner

In an effort to allow more baby formula into the country, Health Canada is looking to change its labelling rules.

The agency is asking for several rules be loosened so more formula can be brought in from Europe to reduce reliance on U.S. supplies.

It’s asking the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to “temporarily exercise enforcement discretion with respect to certain labelling and composition requirements.” One of those include a temporary suspension on some bilingual labelling rules, which would enable more European products to enter the market.

If the CFIA agrees with the request, nine new products would be able to enter the Canadian market.

“The purpose of the enforcement discretion recommendation is to help prevent and mitigate shortages of these products in Canada in relation to the temporary closure of a large manufacturing plant in the United States, while ensuring a safe supply of these products to the vulnerable Canadians that rely on them,” said a Health Canada statement.

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On February 17, the CFIA issued a food recall warning in relation to powdered infant formula products originating from a Michigan manufacturing facility.

The closure of this facility has sparked global formula shortage, and Canada is facing a shortage of infant formulas designed for babies with specialized diets and medical conditions.

Health Canada said that “a shortage of infant formulas, HMF, and metabolic products in Canada related to the closure of the Abbott facility may be detrimental to the health of vulnerable Canadians.”

The Government of Canada released the following advice for worried families: “Do not make homemade formula, use other milk substitutes or acquire infant formula or breastmilk from unknown sources. If you are combining bottle-feeding and breastfeeding, try to maintain your breastmilk supply and consult your health care professional if you need advice on an allergen free diet.”

Health Canada is recommending the CFIA allow these changes to be made until June 30.

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