Breaking News
More () »

Can Maine parents bring baby formula back from Canada?

With baby formula shortages across the U.S., some Mainers may be wondering about accessibility to formula in their neighbor to the north.
Credit: NCM

WOODSTOCK, NB — As the U.S. flies in baby formula from Europe amid a crippling shortage, parents across Maine still struggle to find formula for their infants. 

The shortage might have some Maine parents looking to their northern neighbor and wondering if they can drive over the border, buy it there, and bring baby formula back from Canada. 

Dr. Patti Miles is an associate professor of management and a HAF Graduate Faculty Fellow at the University of Maine's Maine Business School. 

She said as a general rule, the U.S. doesn't allow the import of baby formula from other countries. 

"The idea is that the other countries don't have as stringent rules as we have," Miles said. 

Miles also said there's a large tax for those who try to import it. 

But some Maine parents might want to take matters into their own hands by driving to Canada to buy baby formula in the near future. 

To find out if parents would have any trouble doing this, NEWS CENTER Maine made such a trip and brought formula back. 

It was almost a four-hour drive from Portland to the Walmart in Woodstock, New Brunswick, but the shelf was a little more than half-full upon arrival. 

A spokesperson for Walmart Canada Corp. issued the following statement to NEWS CENTER Maine on baby formula availability: 

"We know how critical baby formula is for our customers. There have been numerous ongoing global, industry-wide supply challenges with baby formula that have persisted for a number of years. Due to recent increased demand, and in order to ensure we continue to have product available in-store and online, we are temporarily limiting purchase quantities of infant formula to 2 per customer until May 31. 

"We are continuing to work closely with our suppliers to secure a strong supply of baby formula across multiple brands and formats (concentrates, powder, and ready-to-feed). We thank our customers for their patience and understanding." 

In Woodstock, NEWS CENTER Maine purchased a unit of Enfamil and Nestle Good Start, both made for sensitive stomachs, because those are reportedly some of the hardest to find in the U.S. 

Credit: NCM

The total for both came to around $50 USD. 

Bringing the formula back into the U.S. went smoothly. NEWS CENTER Maine declared the formula to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who later searched the car's trunk and then waved the vehicle through back into Maine. 

An article published on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website in 2019 stated, "You may bring bakery items and most cheeses into the United States. As a general rule, condiments, vinegars, oils, packaged spices, honey, maple syrup, coffee, fish, tea, and baby formula are admissible." 

As for how much baby formula American shoppers can bring back into the U.S. from Canada duty-free, another U.S. Customs and Border Protection webpage stated, "You may still bring back $200 worth of items free of duty and tax. As discussed earlier, these items must be for your personal or household use." 

Once back in Maine, the formula was donated to the Maine Baby Formula Shortage Help Facebook group, which allows people with formula to connect with those in need. Within 24 hours, the donated baby formula had already gone to parents who needed it. Anyone who would like to donate formula can join the group and find a recipient. 

Elizabeth Huitt, a Maine mother in Old Town, started the group to help other struggling parents. Huitt has an infant of her own to feed. 

"There's only so much that can go around, and so many people need it," Huitt said. "It's been hard." 

Meanwhile, Huitt's Facebook group has continued to grow. As of Friday, it was up to around 1,400 members. Huitt said she has four moderators and two administrators that help her manage everything. The group calls itself the Baby Formula Shortage team. 

Some volunteers are from Old Town, while others are from Gorham and Scarborough. 

So far, Huitt said nobody in her group had discussed driving into Canada to buy baby formula there. 

"Right now, we do have a transport team that goes up from Fort Kent all the way down to the very tip of Elliot," Huitt said. 

The mother told NEWS CENTER Maine she'd never recommend anyone go over the border to get baby formula for others. 

"If they do it for themselves, that's their own business," Huitt said. "I'm not familiar with the implications. I don't know how it's controlled when it goes across the border." 

With that said, if someone did bring formula from Canada, Huitt said her group would accept it. The mother added most people want hypoallergenic and gentle for sensitive stomach formulas. 

"Those are the hardest to find," Huitt said. "It's been so heartbreaking to see parents going [to] store after store." 

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories

Paid Advertisement