Shortage of infant formula worries new parents in Ottawa
Empty shelves, a lack of options and crying children; The continuing shortage of infant formula in the United States has spilled over to Ottawa, and new parents say they desperately need answers.
“I went into panic mode as soon as I saw the shelves. Not only was there no formula I needed, there was no formula at all. No marks, no different age categories, it was literally empty,” said Melissa Lamb.
Lamb says she stopped at four different stores before finding formula for her two-month-old daughter, Lola.
“When you find some, you’re like, ‘I have to buy whatever they have on the shelves.’ I didn’t because I want to save some for other moms who may not be as lucky as me, who obviously can breastfeed,” Lamb said.
According to a Field Agent Canada audit, infant formula is out of stock by 21% on Canadian shelves and slightly higher in Ottawa at 26%. Shortages are a far cry from the estimated 40% in the United States, but parents still say they are worried.
“I’m starting to worry again that we can’t find him,” said Janelle Côté.
Côté’s six-month-old daughter, Evie, suffers from acid reflux and uses the Similac Sensitive formula; one of many Similac products that were part of a major recall in the United States.
The recall ultimately led to the closure of infant formula maker Abbott’s plant in Sturgis, Michigan; a major factor in growing supply problems.
“Within a month of taking this formula, we noticed it was gone. There was nothing. The shelves were constantly empty, and then we found out there was a recall and the recall was affecting other formulas because parents had to buy our brand,” Côté said.
On Monday, US officials reached an agreement to allow Abbott to restart its largest domestic factory, although it will take two months or more before new products are shipped from the site and retail experts in Canada say it could be several weeks after shipment before the shelves return to Ottawa. Normal.
“I think you’re going to see something in four to six weeks from when this product starts flowing to when we start to see a recovery at the store level and that’s really assuming consumers don’t continue to panicking to buy,” Jeff Doucette, the executive director of Field Agent Canada said.
The Ottawa Food Bank says the supply shortage has been affecting them for months, with some formulas nearly impossible to buy.
“In particular, the first stage of formula has been nearly impossible for us to find. Since January, we have seen a 75% decrease in the amount of infant formula we have been able to distribute in the community,” said Rachael Wilson, Executive Director of the Ottawa Food Bank.
Wilson says 80 percent of the formula the food bank receives is now donated items.
“We have never experienced anything like this. Having to command and pray for him to appear is really difficult and stressful,” she added.
Supply chain delays mean families in Ottawa will likely be forced to continue their hunt for baby formula over the coming weeks.
“I’m going to be at the mercy of being on my phone again, checking all that inventory at Walmart,” Côté said.