Baby food price increases are a cause for concern

The 18-pack of Enfamil infant formula was around $60 at Shoppers Drug Mart last month.  Now it costs $75.  (Anjuli Patil/CBC - photo credit)

The 18-pack of Enfamil infant formula was around $60 at Shoppers Drug Mart last month. Now it costs $75. (Anjuli Patil/CBC – photo credit)

The rising cost of infant formula worries a mother from Bedford, NS.

Abigail Sharron says the 18-pack of Enfamil ready-to-feed infant formula cost around $60 at Shoppers Drug Mart just four weeks ago. Now it’s almost $75.

“Shock and disbelief, defeat — I mean, I’m trying to feed my child and accomplish so much in such a short amount of time, it’s scary,” Sharron said.

Sharron said it took her three-and-a-half-month-old son five days to complete the entire package. She said she buys this particular product, made with distilled water, because it was recommended by a doctor.

CBC News contacted Loblaws, the Shoppers Drug Mart, for comment. No one from the company replied.

Other retailers sell the same product at a lower price. Walmart Canada sells the same 18-pack of Enfamil infant formula for $59.95, though Sharron said it’s not always on shelves.

Zavin Graham

Zavin Graham

Reverberation for formula shortage 2021

Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, said the reason a company like Walmart can sell the same product at a lower price is because it’s better at logistics than Loblaws.

“You plan ahead. That may have given Walmart an advantage given what’s going on in the infant formula market,” Charlebois said, referring to the US Department of Justice, which opened an investigation into the Abbott Laboratories plant in January.

Abbott Laboratories makes Similac, another popular brand of infant formula.

In June, the Associated Press reported that its Michigan factory was closed for months due to contamination. This closure resulted in supply shortages for all infant formulas, including non-Abbott brands.

Walmart Canada

Walmart Canada

families pay

“Things are very slow and the entire North American market is affected,” Charlebois said. “So inventories are a challenge for everyone, including Shoppers and Walmart.

“So my guess is that Walmart took some steps ahead of time to make sure they actually stock some products.”

Lesley Frank, the Canadian Research Chair in Nutrition, Health and Social Justice at Acadia University, says the jump in shoppers’ prices is worrying.

“Those who find it difficult to afford these products even before the price increase are faced with quite difficult scenarios,” Frank said.

“We know that infant food insecurity – which means people don’t have enough money to buy the food they need to feed their babies – has led to some pretty worrying results.”

Some of those results include watering down infant formula to help preserve it and feeding babies with expired formula, Frank said.

When Sharron’s son turns four months old, he can switch to a powdered formula. While it’s cheaper than the pre-made formula, Sharron says it’s still expensive.

“I honestly don’t know how much longer families can sustain themselves much longer because the powder has gone up as well,” Sharron said.



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