Infant formula conspiracy theory based on lies

The claim: A shortage of infant formula occurred within two weeks after Pfizer said not to breastfeed and Bill Gates promoted artificial breast milk technology

As parents continue to struggle with a severe formula shortage in the United States, a tweet from May 11 went viral for noting events allegedly related to infant feeding. It reads:

Pfizer says don’t breastfeed.

Formula milk is scarce.

Bill Gates promotes new artificial breast milk technology.

All within 2 weeks.

The tweet gained around 30,000 retweets and 79,000 likes within days, and dozens of Facebook users shared screenshots of the post about COVID-19 vaccine developer Pfizer and billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

“Just a coincidence, nothing is happening here,” reads an iteration of the claim in a Facebook post from Just Another Anarchy Page, which has been shared more than 700 times in two weeks.

Baby Formula 101:Everything you need to know during the formula shortage

Yet two of the three events constituting this “coincidence” did not happen in the first place.

Pfizer hasn’t discouraged breastfeeding in recent weeks, despite a persistent rumor that it does. And while a fund founded by Gates invested in an artificial breast milk startup in 2020, Gates himself never promoted the company. The product is not on the market and will not be for several years.

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USA TODAY has reached out to Jones and other users who shared the complaint for comment.

Pfizer didn’t tell women to avoid breastfeeding

The formula shortage began with supply chain issues late last year, but worsened significantly when suspected bacterial contamination caused major producer Abbott Nutrition to shut down production for several weeks. while it was under investigation by the Food & Drug Administration.

The post suggests that the shortage of breastmilk alternatives coincided with a warning against breastfeeding from Pfizer. But there is no evidence that this is true.

Pfizer has not issued any such statement in recent months, USA TODAY found. Users who shared the claim did not provide supporting evidence.

Fact check: Third-party sellers on Canadian Amazon can ship formula to US customers

The rumor likely stems from viral but false claims that a document purportedly from Pfizer stated that nursing mothers should not take the vaccine.

As USA TODAY reported, the document on which these claims were based was not authored by Pfizer and does not include recent information. Instead, it was released by a UK government agency in December 2020, before data on how pregnant and breastfeeding women reacted to the vaccine became available.

Fact check:Breastfed newborns have no reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine

The vaccination has been shown to be safe for expectant mothers and breastfed newborns, as reported by USA TODAY.

Formula is piled on a table during an infant formula drive to help with shortages on May 14, 2022 in Houston.

Gates’ fund invested in Biomilq long before the shortage, and Gates did not promote the company publicly

Contrary to the post’s claim, Gates has not publicly promoted an artificial breastmilk technology company in recent weeks, according to USA TODAY’s research of news articles about Gates as well as his Twitter feed.

Gates is indirectly invested in artificial breast milk startup BIOMILQ through Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate change-focused investment firm that Gates founded in 2016, as USA TODAY reported.

The fund invested $3.5 million in BIOMILQ in late 2020, long before the infant formula shortage began.

BIOMILQ is a small part of the Breakthrough Energy portfolio. The fund has raised more than $2 billion and invested in more than 50 companies since its inception, its website says. And the company is unlikely to take advantage of the timing of the formula shortage given its stage of development.

Fact check:False Claim that States Send Free Formula to Similac and Enfamil Callers

Co-founder Leila Strickland told CNN this month that it will take at least another three to five years to gain regulatory approval and bring the product to market. Formulas like Similac, on the other hand, should hit shelves in about six to eight weeks.

Our opinion: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that the current infant formula shortage occurred within two weeks of Pfizer saying not to breastfeed and Gates promoting artificial breast milk technology. . There is an ongoing shortage of infant formula, as the claim suggests, but it is not true that the other two events occurred within a two-week period. Pfizer hasn’t recently advised women to avoid breastfeeding, and the “new artificial breastmilk technology” Bill Gates invested in several years ago won’t hit the market for three to five years. . We found no evidence that Gates has publicly promoted it, recently or otherwise.

Our fact-checking sources:

  • Associated Press, May 18, Biden invokes Defense Production Act to boost formula production
  • Breakthrough Energy, Accessed May 18, Our Story
  • Bill Gates, accessed May 18, Twitter profile
  • CNBC, June 16, 2020 Bill Gates’ climate change investment firm bets on lab-produced breast milk
  • CNN, May 3, lab-grown ‘human milk’ could be three years from now
  • Pfizer.com, accessed May 19, Research
  • USA TODAY, May 20, Fact Check: No, the document does not show Pfizer’s warning against the vaccine for breastfeeding women
  • USA TODAY, December 12, 2016, The new Captain Planet? Bill Gates launches $1 billion climate change fund
  • USA TODAY, April 9, 2021, Fact Check: Breastfed Newborns Have No Reactions to COVID-19 Vaccine
  • USA TODAY, December 13, 2021, Fact Check: No Evidence Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines Cause Miscarriage
  • USA TODAY, May 12, the White House is taking steps to curb the shortage of infant formula, but is unsure when parents might see relief
  • USA TODAY, May 17, FDA reaches agreement with Abbott to reopen infant formula factory; how long until it’s back on the shelves?
  • USA TODAY, May 24, Fact Check: Third-Party Sellers on Canadian Amazon Can Ship Formula to US Customers
  • USA TODAY, May 23, Fact Check: No, manufactured and homemade infant formula are not the same
  • USA TODAY, May 20, Fact Check: Image of boxes in warehouse unrelated to infant formula shortage
  • USA TODAY, May 19, Fact Check: No, goat’s milk is no substitute for formula, experts say
  • USA TODAY, May 18, Fact Check: False Claim that States Send Free Formula to Similac and Enfamil Callers

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Our fact-checking work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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