Baby formula shortage hits home

Recall of popular brands prompts stockpiling and scrambling for alternatives

Jessika Anderson with daughter, Gia, admits she’s had numerous scares due to the baby formula shortage. – Submitted photo

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES – On Feb. 17, Abbott, a global healthcare company based out of the United States, issued a voluntary recall of their powder formulas including Similac, Alimentum, and EleCare, that were manufactured in Sturgis, Michigan.

The reason for this recall was due to four customer complaints regarding Cronobacter sakazakii and salmonella contamination in infants who had consumed the infant formula from this particular facility.

As a result, Shoppers Drug Mart, as listed in the recall notice on the government of Canada website, has issued their second recall since Feb. for the previously recalled products as some units were sold online in error.

The products that are affected are as follows:

• Similac Advance Step 1 Milk-Based Iron-Fortified Infant Formula Powder – 964 g

• Similac Advance Step 2 Milk-Based Iron-Fortified and Calcium-Enriched Infant Formula Powder – 964 g

• Similac Alimentum Step 1 Hypoallergenic Infant Formula Powder – 400 g

• Similac Advance Step 2 Milk-Based Iron-Fortified and Calcium-Enriched Infant Formula Powder – 658 g

The warning notes that food contaminated with either bacteria will not always look or smell spoiled, but it can still make you sick.

“Although Cronobacter sakazakii is not commonly linked to human illness, in rare cases it can cause serious or fatal infections. Cronobacter sakazakii can cause rare bloodstream and central nervous system infections and has been associated with severe intestinal infection (necrotizing enterocolitis) and blood poisoning (sepsis), especially in newborns.

“Food contaminated with Salmonella may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may contract serious and sometimes deadly infections. Healthy people may experience short-term symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea.”

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products.

The Sturgis, MI, factory resumed operations effective on Jun. 4; however, parents in the area are still feeling the pressure of the limited availability of formula that has become more serious due to the recall.

Jackiee Sweet has had to switch baby formula after the Similac brand was recalled due to a Salmonella – Submitted photo

Jackiee Sweet of Port Aux Basques said she has noticed the formula shortage being mentioned in the United States on social media for months and has since noticed a shortage here.

“I believe it’s mainly the Similac brand, but now other moms are having to use Enfamil, so now that one is hard to find too. I went to Shoppers (Drug Mart) a few days ago and bought the very last pack of powder formula.”

Sweet said she hasn’t been able to find the kind her son likes in weeks and had no choice but to switch to Enfamil, which has been easier to locate, but it’s harder on her child’s stomach.

“I was breastfeeding, but unfortunately my milk dried up within seven weeks. If I can’t find the right formula, I honestly don’t have a plan or know what I could do. Shoppers has said that they can’t get any Similac due to the manufacturer so, so far it isn’t looking good. It’s a lot of added stress. I am worried every time I go to the store that there won’t be any formula available.”

Sweet said she hasn’t had to look for alternative methods for feeding her son just yet, but if sourcing formula continues to be difficult, it’s likely going to become a reality for a lot of local parents. She said there is one main way that this problem could be avoided in the region.

“More variety for sure. Shoppers only seems to have the main three brands and one of them is Similac, which has the shortage currently.”

Jessika Anderson said she noticed an issue far before the recall, and it specifically pertained to formula for babies who have sensitivities.

“This was back in 2020. I just had my daughter Gia, and she developed this thing where the milk was coming back up out through her nose. It was like a really bad acid reflux and she needed a sensitive formula, and there were no options down here then. And that was two years ago.”

Anderson said this is an issue that has gotten progressively worse, and she is glad that her daughter is now on fresh milk.

“When Gia was a baby, all they had was the normal version of everything – just the normal Similac, the normal Enfamil, the PC Life Brand, no sensitive anywhere. There are babies out there who are lactose sensitive, and there was nothing like that there at all.”

Anderson said she had to use alternative methods to get the proper formula for her daughter.

“What I was doing is I was ordering online on Walmart, and sometimes they would run out really quick. So I would have to stock up and, if I wasn’t able to for some reason, like sometimes online it would say there was only one available, that kind of thing, then I would have to borrow cans of Similac here and there from my friends. We all had babies around the same time, and I would have to deal with the milk coming out (of her nose) because there was no sensitive formula.”

Anderson said, as a result, she had numerous scares with her infant daughter.

“It got so bad that I had to take her to the emergency room sometimes to get her nose suctioned. She turned blue from having to drink what they had available at Shoppers, just because she couldn’t hold it in her belly, and they had nothing suitable for her.”

Anderson said this added additional stress that no mother should have to go through.

“Until you’ve felt that stress of wondering where your baby’s can of formula is going to come from, you can never really understand,” said Anderson. “It was very hard. I had her in October, so then November, December, January, February – that’s winter months, and trying to get in to Corner Brook without a feasible vehicle wasn’t a thing. It was so much inconvenience for a mom of a small baby.”

Anderson agreed variety is necessary in Port Aux Basques to ensure every child, no matter their food sensitivities, has a number of viable options.

“For Port Aux Basques, they definitely need to broaden the formula choices here. They need stuff for all different bellies because, just like actual adults, not everybody can eat the same thing. I really want to see different options down at Shoppers or wherever. There is nowhere you can purchase sensitive stuff here,” said Anderson.

Shoppers Drug Mart did not respond to inquiries before publication deadline.

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