Military stores are scrambling to get formula – what new parents need to know

Military families are seeing the same formula shortage at military stores that customers find at many civilian stores across the United States.

For now, however, overseas and remote commissioners have an adequate supply of baby products, said Kevin Robinson, spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency.

“We will ensure that all orders for overseas and distant stores are given priority for infant formula shipments,” he said, adding that they would be airlifted to the air marshals. abroad if necessary.

Throughout the pandemic, commissaries and exchanges have prioritized overseas shipments for products in short supply, like baby formula, due to longer delivery times and often limited options for families to the outside of the door.

Military families stationed in the United States generally have the ability to shop outside the gate, but civilian stores are also experiencing severe shortages of infant formula, and families have to search everywhere.

“The Defense Commissary Agency is not immune to the same supply chain issues experienced by other retailers, and we are fully aware of the current market situation which is impacting the supply of formula,” Robinson said. “The availability of infant formula for all our stores is fluid at the moment and is changing daily. We are constantly working with our distributors to address any product disruptions.

“We want our customers to know that we’re doing everything we can – and more – to get the products they need on their store shelves, especially to our commissioners overseas,” Robinson said.

Military exchange officials set a limit of five units of formula per person per purchase, similar to out-of-gate retailers.

“Many of them [overseas] families may feel quite anxious about going to a local store because they can’t really read the instructions on the label and don’t know which formula is closest to what they’re used to , unless they know someone who speaks the local language,” said Dr. Steven Abrams, immediate past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition.

Abrams said it would be helpful if military doctors could advise families overseas if they have to leave the facility to get formula.

Why is there a shortage?

Infant formula shortages have been a problem since the start of the pandemic. But in February, Abbott voluntarily recalled all infant formula produced at a Michigan plant after four infants fell ill with bacterial infections. This led to an immediate worsening of shortages. The company manufactures formulas under the Similac and other brand names.

“All the other companies just couldn’t scale in time in the United States,” Abrams said.

Depending on the region of the country, the supply of infant formula is 40 to 50 percent lower than normal, Abrams said, and the supply of some of the most critical specialty formulas, such as hypoallergenic products, has fallen. completely dried up.

“Unfortunately it’s not getting better,” he said. “If anything, it’s getting worse,” because the Food and Drug Administration didn’t allow Abbott to start producing formula again at that plant.

In an announcement on its website, Abbott said it was taking corrective action and working to increase the supply of infant formula production at its facilities, including increasing its production of Similac Ready-to-use liquid formula. -Feed.

Formula milk in military stores

In addition to branded infant formula, Commissars sell infant formula under the store brand: Tippy Toes. Since February, sales of the Tippy Toes commissioner’s brand formula have increased 600%, said Rene Hunter, vice president of Spartan Nash’s military division. This company is under contract with the commissioner’s agency as a worldwide supplier of private label products.

Some products are available. “As soon as we get it, it’s out,” she said.

But some people also hoarded. Spartan Nash’s reserve stock for formula milk quickly disappeared. This reserve helps meet temporary jumps in demand, but when demand continues, it takes a while to ramp up production, she said.

Spartan Nash officials are working to do just that, “and we expect to see positive results … by the end of June,” she said. Some Tippy Toes formula selections are comparable to specific Similac formulas, while others are comparable to specific Enfamil products. All are FDA and EU approved.

Military exchanges have worked with suppliers to replenish their stock of infant formula.

The Navy Exchange Service Command recently placed a number of special orders for infant formula in an effort to build inventory at distribution centers and stores.

“We have also aggressively activated brands and sizes not typically found in our previous infant formula assortment to meet demand,” NEXCOM spokeswoman Kristine Sturkie said.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials are also working with vendors to get more products and to get products that weren’t historically on AAFES’ shelves, AAFES said. said spokesman Chris Ward.

Unsurprisingly, online purse stores were also hit by the shortages. In a recent check of the Navy Exchange website, there were 24 options for infant formula brands and sizes. Only one was available for purchase and quantities were limited to five units per household.

Advice for families

In the meantime, Abrams has some advice.

  • Don’t make homemade formula, period. Recipes are circulating on the Internet that may seem healthy or cheaper, but they are unsafe and do not meet your baby’s nutritional needs. He notes that infant deaths have been reported following the use of some homemade formulas.
  • Do not dilute too much in order to go deeper in the formula. This is dangerous because it can cause nutritional imbalances in your baby and lead to serious health problems.
  • Do not hoard.
  • Be flexible on brand choices where possible, within US brands. You can switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specialty formula. Check with your pediatrician.
  • Check online for readiness supplies, including military exchange sites. But be careful buying the formula elsewhere on the web. Make sure it comes from reputable distributors and pharmacies rather than being sold individually or from auction sites, Abrams said. It is not legal to send formula to the United States unless the FDA has approved it.
  • In the United States, check small stores and pharmacies, which may have some supply.
  • For families using the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), consult your local WIC office or WIC office overseas.
  • For military personnel overseas, “the hardest thing to assess is being able to use — and feel comfortable using — local formulas, even though it may cost them more. But if you have to do it, you have to do it,” Abrams said.

“For most overseas, local formulas from local companies whose names they know, like Nestlé, are reliable,” Abrams said. He noted that Nestlé was more involved in manufacturing infant formula in Europe than in the United States. There are also several other European companies that sell plenty of fully tested, high-quality infant formula, he said.

In places overseas where U.S. bases are located, local infant formulas are likely to be well regulated, he said.

“European standards are very high, like most Asian standards, so [families] don’t have to worry about the formula being inadequate or harming their baby,” he said. “What they have to worry about is making sure it’s similar to what they were using and making sure they have the right dilution.”

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for over 30 years, and co-authored a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families”. She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Florida and Athens, Ga.

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