Ontario parents drive over 5 hours to find baby formula for 8-month-old twins
An Ontario couple has had to drive more than five hours to find baby formula for their eight-month-old twins.
Mariah and Hakeem Walsh's twin boys arrived in July and since then the parents have been struggling to find formula.
"It's been a struggle," said Hakeem. "It's been a rollercoaster of emotions every time we got to get groceries. Either there's some or there's none and we got to call around."
At least once they've driven from Toronto to Sudbury, just to find food for their infants.
"Who do you call when you can't feed your babies?" asked Mariah. "I went to 10 grocery stores one day, no formula."
Many stores are limiting the amount parents can buy. CTV News Toronto went to a few stores and found signs on the shelves that read "please see customer service for assistance" and "currently out of stock." Another store had some of the formula on the shelf behind a glass door that was locked.
"(The) shortage is real for Canadians," said Sylvain Charlebois, the head of Dalhousie University’s Agrifood Lab.
Baby formula shortage in U.S. leaves shelves bare at a Toronto store. (CTV News Toronto/ Sean Leathong)
A baby formula shortage started a little more than a year ago when the largest U.S. formula maker plant shutdown after a recall was issued for several powdered Similac products that were thought to be linked to the death a few infants who developed a bacterial infection.
"The plant in Michigan is still not working at 100 per cent," said Charlebois. "They've been dealing with foods safety issues, but now there's a criminal investigation going on led by the Department of Justice since January."
There is a factory in Kingston called Canada Royal Milk (CRM) that according to its website was established by Feihe International Inc., which is "the largest producer of formula for infants and young children in the People's Republic of China." The website goes on to say that "most of our production will be for export, but we intend to develop nutritional products for the North American market as well."
Carey Bidtnes, Human Resources Manager for Canada Royal Milk, told CTV News Toronto the website is out of date and that "infant formula production has not started at all at the plant and no infant formula has been produced to be exported anywhere."
Bidtnes said CRM has completed formal submissions to Health Canada for the pre-market notification process to product infant formulas for domestic sale in August 2022. She said the submissions are under review and once approved, "CRM can begin production of infant formula for the domestic market immediately."
She also said, "Canada Royal Milk has not started production of infant formulations for any market. The reports that the company is exporting infant formula are not correct. The number one priority is completing the Health Canada review to produce for domestic sale."
Charlebois said both the province and federal governments subsidized that plant.
"Queens Park's portion was $24 million, but the Ottawa portion was never disclosed," he told CTV News Toronto. "Nobody really knows how much money Ottawa put in there. The City of Kingston gave 10 acres to that company from China."
CTV News Toronto asked Health Canada where the Canada Royal Milk application stood and was told they could not comment on “submissions under review.”
“We want to provide assurance that Health Canada works hard to ensure that any new infant formula submission is reviewed promptly,” officials said in a statement.
A spokesperson added the situation is not completely back to normal but the shortage of hypoallergenic infant formula "has largely subsided". The statement went on to say that "while the total national supply of regular infant formula remains sufficient at this time, we are aware of concerns about finding store-brand or lower-cost infant formulas."
The statement went on to say that in February, Health Canada approved "temporary importation" of a new powdered regular formula, Similac Advance.
"Additionally Health Canada has been reassured that there will be continued regular shipments of generic/ store brand formulas, including Kirkland and Parent's Choice with more coming to shelves over the coming weeks."
The Walshs say to feed their twin boys they spend about $200 each week on formula and have to visit multiple stores. The couple said they don't buy more than the store limits but what's frustrating is those limits don't take into account that they have twins.
"We have to spend $200 at a time because there's been too many close calls where we've only bought enough for eight days and then you go to the grocery store and you're all over Southwestern Ontario looking for a can of formula," said Mariah.
Mariah and Hakeem Walsh are seen in this photograph. (Allison Hurst/CTV News Toronto)
On the Health Canada website, for information for parents on the how to manage the shortage, it encourages breastfeeding if possible and to maintain or increase breastmilk supply if parents are combining bottle-feeding and breastfeeding.
"I took medicine to breastfeed, I changed my diet, I took vitamins, everything my doctor told me to breastfeed," said Mariah. "I couldn't make enough milk for it to matter."
She said she's reached out to a number members of parliament at both the provincial and federal levels but has not heard back.
"No government official is taking the formula seriously," she told CTV News Toronto, "that's what really bothers me."
Charlebois said there's some potential progress to come from the federal budget released on Tuesday.
"There is a $333 million budget dedicated to dairy research to deal with surpluses and my guess over 10 years, my guess is there's probably going to be some financial capacity for the dairy industry to look into the baby formula situation. But it's over 10 years so there's no quick fix for what's going on right now."
Toronto Top Stories
BREAKING | Person pronounced dead following fire at 'very complex' building in west Toronto
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Hundreds of American firefighters arrive in Canada to help battle wildfires
Hundreds of American firefighters have recently arrived in Canada to help battle wildfires and more are on the way, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
Can face masks help protect you from wildfire smoke? Health expert explains
An official recommendation to wear a mask to protect yourself from wildfire smoke is being echoed by health experts as plumes of smoke make their way across parts of Canada, causing poor air quality.
Here's how major cities in Canada and the U.S. look blanketed by wildfire smoke
Photos show smoke-filled skies in cities across Canada and the U.S. as air quality warnings were issued in wake of the hundreds of wildfires from Quebec and Ontario.
'Very, very hard to breathe': Experts call wildfires a 'major public health concern' for Canada
As forest fires rage across the country, experts are sounding the alarm over the physical and psychological impacts of the wildfires and saying that they pose a serious public health issue, which individuals and governments need to acknowledge and act upon.
WATCH | Rate hike 'may be the last straw' for some homeowners: mortgage broker
With the latest hike bringing Canada's key interest rates to levels not seen since 2001, one mortgage broker is warning that it may be 'the last straw' for some homeowners with variable mortgages.
Canadians more likely to support foreign interference inquiry than hearings: Nanos
Canadians are twice as likely to support a formal inquiry into foreign interference, as opposed to public hearings, according to new polling from Nanos Research for CTV News.
opinion | Eight takeaways from Prince Harry's seven hours on the witness stand
It's been a busy, tumultuous few days for Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex as he took his place on the witness stand in his trial against the Mirror Group Newspapers. Here are royal commentator Afua Hagan's top takeaways from his two-day grilling.
Calgary mass killer Matthew de Grood seeks 'absolute discharge'
The man who was found not criminally responsible in the stabbing deaths of five people at a house party in Brentwood more than nine years ago is seeking more freedoms.
Trudeau shows no interest in compromising with Meta, Google over online news bill
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is showing no interest in compromising with Meta and Google over a Liberal bill that would make them pay for Canadian journalism that helps the companies generate revenue.
Ontario man charged with first-degree murder in killing of Claudia Iacono outside Montreal salon
An Ontario man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Claudia Iacono, the daughter-in-law of Mafia associate Moreno Gallo, after she was gunned down at the wheel of her car in Montreal last month.
Woman, 55, dies after vehicle strikes 2 pedestrians in Cote-des-Neiges; second pedestrian seriously injured
A pedestrian has died after she and a fellow pedestrian were both hit by a vehicle Wednesday afternoon in Montreal's Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood.
More evacuations in Quebec as record-breaking fires continue to burn
Quebec's wildfire season, which has forced thousands from their homes and left other communities on high alert, is the worst on record, officials said Wednesday,
VIDEO | 'Hate and discrimination have no place in any TVDSB schools': Investigation underway after pride flag torn down
Students at Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School in London, Ont. are being investigated after a video was posted online showing students tearing down a LGBTQ2S+ pride flag.
Special air quality statement remains in effect, rain possible over the weekend
As wildfire smoke blankets Ontario and eastern U.S., causing hazardous air quality and hazy skies, smoke in the Forest City is expected to remain until at least Thursday night.
City pitches new parking garage and extended free parking to aid downtown London, Ont.’s recovery
Since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Honk Mobile Parking App has offered two hours of free municipal parking in London’s core area business districts.
Poor air quality in Waterloo region and Guelph will continue into the weekend: Environment Canada
There's high levels of air pollution in Waterloo region and Wellington County as smoke plumes from wildfires burning in Quebec and northeastern Ontario continue to blow into the region, Environment Canada says.
Six Region of Waterloo councillors announce support for amalgamation
One unified city – that’s what six Region of Waterloo councillors say they want when it comes to the future of the region’s municipal governance.
Habitat for Humanity nears completion of new affordable housing units
The work never stops at Habitat for Humanity when it comes to building affordable homes for families in Waterloo region.
Wildfire west of Sudbury prompts evacuation order, total active fires in northern Ont. grows to 54
A northern Ontario forest fire that started west of Sudbury on Sunday morning has grown to more than 1,000 hectares and has prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for the immediate area as the number of active fires in the region grows.
Spreading wildfires prompt northeastern communities to evacuate
Communities affected by wildfires in the region are evacuating for safety reasons. The province says there is significant danger as several out-of-control wildfires affect air quality and physical safety.
‘Incompetent’ northern Ont. doctor loses his license to practise medicine
A northern Ontario doctor has been stripped of his medical licence for conduct described as “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.”
Special Air Quality Statement
Special Air Quality Statement | Wildfire smoke blankets Ottawa for a third day
Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement for Ottawa, with the air quality at 10+ "very high risk" Wednesday morning. Conditions improved in the afternoon.
Plug-in air purifier blamed for row house fire in Craig Henry area
The Ottawa Fire Service says a plug-in air purifier is to blame for a fire on Craig Henry Drive Tuesday.
Centennial Lake fire being held; evacuation order in place until Friday
The wildfire at Centennial Lake, 150 km west of Ottawa, is being held by firefighters, but an evacuation order remains in effect until Friday.
VIDEO | Weapon and drug charges laid after Lakeshore ‘road rage’ incident
A “road rage” incident has led to multiple charges for two Windsor residents after allegedly wielding a replica firearm at another driver.
'I just feel so empty': Mother opens up after teenaged daughter’s body recovered by police
The body of a woman reported missing in January has been found by Windsor police and her mother is struggling with the confirmation that her daughter is gone.
Alleged murder of Windsor woman marks region's 4th case of femicide in last two years, says advocacy group
In the wake of a first-degree murder charge being filed against a Michigan man for killing his estranged wife, a 36-year-old Windsor woman, the head of an emergency shelter for women and children says femicide is a growing problem in Windsor-Essex.
Barrie councillors hear grim reality of housing affordability crisis
Barrie city councillors got a shocking but not surprising reality check into the affordability challenges facing many residents looking to put a roof over their heads.
Simcoe County working towards plan to address homelessness
Like many regions across the country, Simcoe County is working towards a solution to end homelessness and create more affordable housing.
No injuries after fire in Clearview Township
As the country faces hazy conditions due to out-of-control forest fires from coast to coast to coast, emergency crews in Simcoe County were kept busy with a fire Wednesday evening.
'This is not helping': Frustrated evacuees say official communication lacking in wildfire recovery
Frustration is building among some people from neighbourhoods hardest-hit by the fires near Halifax. CTV's Heidi Petracek reports.
A 'whole list of hazards' are keeping residents near N.S. fire zones under evacuation: officials
It is still not safe for some evacuated residents whose houses were spared from wildfire damage to return home, officials from Halifax Regional Municipality and the District of Shelburne said.
Halifax support workers strike impacting students and families
The father of disabled teen from Fall River, N.S. is calling on all sides to get back to the bargaining table and put an end to the Halifax area CUPE educational support worker strike.
Council reconsiders decision to reject recommendations on affordability crisis
Calgary city council has reconsidered its decision to vote against recommendations made by an expert panel to address the city’s housing affordability crisis.
Man on mobility scooter hit by truck in northeast Calgary intersection
Police say a man on a mobility scooter has life-altering injuries after he was struck by a vehicle in a northeast Calgary intersection on Wednesday evening.
Hot, dry weather comes with cautions and a few benefits
Calgary was under a heat warning Wednesday with forecast high of 29C.
Trustee suspended over posts targeting LGBTQ2S+ community, division says
A Manitoba school trustee has been suspended over social media posts the division says targeted the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Continued closure of Fort Gibraltar causing changes for soon to be married couples
The closure of Fort Gibraltar following the collapse of an elevated walkway that sent 16 students and one teacher to hospital has left some couples scrambling to find a place to get married.
Crash with stolen vehicle sends two Winnipeg officers to hospital
A section of Main Street is closed on Wednesday morning following a car crash in the area.
Out-of-control wildfire on Lower Mainland sees massive growth
A human-caused wildfire on the Lower Mainland has grown to an estimated 800 hectares and continues to burn out of control Wednesday, according to the BC Wildfire Service.
'You don't listen to renters': Vancouver Tenants Union disrupts housing announcement
Rental housing advocates interrupted an announcement by B.C.'s housing minister in Vancouver Wednesday morning to object to the provincial government's response to the affordability crisis.
Vancouver voice actors concerned about AI cloning voices without consent
Advances in artificial intelligence means software can generate accurate voice clones that sound just like the real thing, but that's putting some actors in a precarious position, including Vancouver's Bill Newton.
Albertans asked to conserve electricity Wednesday evening due to hot temperatures
Hot temperatures across Alberta prompted a grid alert Wednesday afternoon.
'A long time coming': Edmonton Catholics commit $3.2M to Indigenous reconciliation fund
The Archdiocese of Edmonton will spend $3.2 million on reconciliation initiatives with First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in the Alberta capital region.
'Major travel delays': Anthony Henday Drive bridge will be closed this weekend
Drivers are being asked to find another way or prepare for delays on the Henday this weekend, because crews need to close a bridge over the North Saskatchewan River.