Good news for new military parents: Supplies of infant formula are starting to increase on commissary shelves.
As of July 19, the stock rates across commissaries in the continental U.S. are hovering around 61%, compared to about 50% in early June. Overseas, the stock rates are about 72%, compared to 55-to-60% in early June, said Kevin Robinson, spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency.
The availability of infant formula for all commissaries is still fluid, and evolving daily, he said. Patrons may still see some shortages for the time being. But commissary officials are optimistic, Robinson added, noting, “our availability of the limited infant formula products on hand is relatively consistent, and we expect our shelf stockage rates will being to normalize in the next 90 days.”
Commissaries continue to put limits on how much infant formula customers can purchase in order to help provide equal access to all customers, he said. Customers should check with their local commissary for information on limits.
“Until the supply chain provides more product, we will continue to work with our distributors to get what’s available and put it on our stores shelves as fast as possible,” Robinson said. “As always, we will ensure all orders for overseas and remote stores receive priority for infant formula shipments.”
Officials are working with suppliers daily to increase the amount of baby formula products, and the suppliers are working to increase production, he said.
In mid-February, Abbott, the largest U.S. maker of infant formula, to include Similac, announced it was recalling various lots of three powdered infant formulas from their Sturgis, Michigan plant after federal officials began investigating rare bacterial infections in four babies who were fed formula. The company also shut down the plant, triggering the nationwide infant formula shortage, especially with specialty baby formulas. Abbott produces about 40% of the baby formula in the U.S., and that Michigan plant is a big producer. There had already been some supply chain issues with baby formula.
The Michigan Abbott plant reopened June 4 to restart production, but then had to shut down two weeks later because of flooding caused by heavy storms. It reopened July 1, and has been initially manufacturing EleCare. Abbott officials announced July 15 they expect to begin releasing EleCare products in the coming weeks, and will restart the production of Similac at the plant as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, other manufacturers have been ramping up production, including suppliers of the commissary brand formula under the private label name Tippy Toes.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of 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, Fla., and Athens, Ga.