Shelves where formula would be stocked stand depleted at a Target store in Stevensville, Maryland, on May 16, 2022 ( AFP / Jim Watson)

Posts mislead on baby formula availability via Amazon Canada

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Social media posts claim that shoppers desperate to get baby formula amid US shortages should turn to Amazon Canada for cross-border delivery. But this is not a reliable solution; many formula products sold in Canada by the online retailing giant are out of stock, unavailable for shipping to the states or on offer from third-party vendors charging above market prices.

"If you go to Amazon and change over to Canada you can order your Baby Formula, no shortage," claims a May 12, 2022 Facebook post shared more than 5,200 times.

Screenshot taken on May 17, 2022 of a Facebook post

Similar claims have also been shared thousands of times on Twitter.

Customers in the United States have faced nationwide shortages of baby formula products. This was exacerbated in February when, after the death of two infants, manufacturer Abbott announced a recall for formula made at its factory in Michigan and shut down that location. On May 16, officials announced it would reopen, but it will take weeks to see more stock back on store shelves. 

Parents desperate to get their hands on specific products have faced purchasing restrictions and price gouging, but buying on Amazon.ca to circumvent shortages often does not work.

Contacted by AFP,  an Amazon spokesperson said: "We know these products are of great importance to parents and caregivers and are working closely with our selling partners to get them back in stock as quickly as possible."

Baby formula products sold by Amazon.ca or sold by third-party vendors and shipped by Amazon are not eligible for delivery to the states. Amazon's shipping restrictions say that certain items face geographical restrictions.

AFP Fact Check journalists tried to order baby formula on Amazon.ca from both the US and Canada, but the products sold and/or shipped directly by Amazon display a notice that they cannot be delivered to an address in the US.

Screenshot taken on May 12, 2022 of formula for sale on amazon.ca

Some products do offer shipping to the US, but they are mailed by third-party sellers, not by Amazon itself, and can retail for a much higher price than what stores in Canada are charging.

For example, the third-party seller below was asking nearly Can$60 for formula -- plus Can$41 for shipping it to the US -- while the same product retails for almost half that price in Canadian stores.

Screenshot taken on May 12, 2022 of formula for sale on amazon.ca

As the shortages in the US worsened, Amazon published a May 15 message reminding sellers that "price gouging is not allowed in our store."

In addition to cost, regulations from the US Food and Drug Administration, import restrictions and supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic also impacted availability of baby formula to the US.