Expired baby formula on store shelves prompts warning to parents

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew
The potentially harmful formula has been found on some Vancouver-area supermarket shelves. This violation carries hefty penalties in many U.S. states, but in Canada, federal and provincial regulations lack clout

If you use formula to feed your baby, CBC News is warning you to check the expiry date before you plop it into your shopping cart.

CBC News checked about a half-dozen Vancouver-area supermarkets and found expired infant formula on the shelves of at least two of them.

Some liquid President's Choice Soy Infant Formula that was more than two months past its expiry date was discovered at a North Vancouver Real Canadian Superstore, CBC News reported.

A PriceSmart store in east Vancouver had stocks of Isomil Infant Formula powder that was seven months out of date.

Human milk substitutes such as formula are required to have hard expiry dates (as opposed to "best before" or "use by") dates because expired products may not longer have the same nutrient value, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

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It's also not supposed to be sold, but CBC News noted that unlike the United States, Canada does not penalize retailers for selling expired foods.

Claudia Kurzac, manager of health protection with the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, said all her inspectors can do is tell stores to remove expired products if they are found.

“We don't have any provincial legislation that governs expiry dates,” Kurzac told CBC News.

By contrast, several U.S. states levy fines for selling expired foods.

American retailer Kmart paid US$302,000 in fines and agreed to donate another US$25,000 to charity after state inspectors found more than half its New Jersey stores had sold or offered for sale expired infant formula as well as over-the-counter medications in 2010, the Trenton Star-Ledger reported last week.

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California implemented a law Jan. 1 that makes it illegal for retailers to sell expired formula or baby food.

In Canada, Melodie White of Woodstock, Ont., settled out of court with now-defunct retail chain Zellers after her son became ill eating baby food that was nine months out of date, CBC News noted.

The supermarket chains where the expired products were found told CBC News they're taking the matter very seriously and reinforcing procedures to ensure it doesn't happen again.