Can parents in the United States purchase baby formula from Amazon Canada to expedite the delivery during a shortage of formula in the U.S.? No, that's not true: Amazon consumers based in the U.S. are not able to purchase baby formula products from other versions of the Amazon website, like Amazon.ca, if the formula is sold or shipped by Amazon. A spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also told Lead Stories that in general, "Consumers should avoid purchasing imported formula through online sales, as it has the potential to be counterfeit."
The claim appeared in a Facebook post on May 12, 2022. The caption of the post read "Helping hand" and included a screenshot of another Facebook post that read in part:
Tik Tok Hack: Baby Formula
I have zero clue if this is true, but, supposedly if you go on Amazon and change over to Canada you can order your Baby Formula, no shortage. I know there are Parents desperately looking formula. Maybe this will help. At this point it can't hurt.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon May 16 19:08:19 2022 UTC)
In a previous Lead Stories fact check titled "Parents Should NOT Make, Feed Homemade Baby Formula To Infants," we reported a shortage of baby formula in the U.S. due to supply-chain issues, recalls, and inflation. The list continued to grow as the U.S. government has since cited consumer hoarding.
Canada has also reported the same supply chain issue which has caused an interim policy on the importation and sale of infant formulas to mitigate shortages.
Lead Stories reached out to Amazon for comment on the claim and for an explanation of that company's policies. Amazon responded only by saying U.S.-based Amazon customers are not able to purchase baby formula products from Amazon.ca if they are sold and shipped by Amazon or sold by third-party sellers and shipped by Amazon. One exception is that consumers can find third-party sellers through Amazon.ca but shipment must be done by the seller, not Amazon.ca.
Lead Stories also tested the ability to purchase baby formula on the Amazon Canada website from the perspective of an Amazon consumer based in the U.S., using a U.S.-based shipping address.
We found that third-party sellers have an option to sell products from Canada to the U.S. However, in the particular search for baby formula, very few third-party sellers, like Woodstock supplies in this instance, were willing to ship to U.S.-based addresses.
While there is even an option to pay using U.S. currency (USD), an 18-count pack of "Enfamil A+, Baby Formula, Ready to Feed Bottles," plus shipping came out to almost $120.00. This single formula package was also the last package available from the seller and would be expected to arrive on May 26, 2022 -- which was the earliest shipping date estimate available and would have been more than a week after the order was placed.
In all, here's what can and cannot be done:
- Baby formula sold and shipped by Amazon Canada: Can't buy
- Baby formula sold by third-party sellers and shipped by Amazon Canada: Can't buy
- Baby formula sold by third-party sellers on Amazon Canada and then shipped independently by those third-party sellers: Can buy only if the third-party seller ships to a U.S. address; plus, shipping is potentially expensive
Amazon has a shipping restrictions page that, in part, reads:
Certain restrictions prevent us from shipping certain products to all geographical locations. Restrictions for specific items may require the purchaser to provide additional information in order to ship the item.
The FDA warns against buying baby formula from online retailers in general. The agency has a Powdered Infant Formula advisory page, published in February 2022, and a Q&A page with information about counterfeit baby formula. The agency emailed Lead Stories on May 16, 2022:
The FDA urges consumers to remain vigilant when purchasing from online retailers. Consumers should avoid purchasing imported formula through online sales, as it has the potential to be counterfeit. Consumers also should search for product information from sources other than sellers and ask a doctor or health care professional for help distinguishing between reliable and questionable information. Protecting the health and safety of Americans is the FDA's highest priority, and we will continue to communicate about products and companies that place U.S. consumers at risk.