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A national shortage of infant formula unfolded due to a recall by a major U.S. manufacturer of baby food and existing supply chain issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s no evidence that an investment in BIOMILQ – a startup that makes artificial breast milk – by a fund that Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are involved in has anything to do with the shortage.
BIOMILQ says it’s still three to five years away from getting a product to market.
Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve likely heard about the baby formula shortage currently gripping the United States.
But some on social media claim there’s something darker at play: an intentional and strategic investment by some of the nation’s richest men.
A screenshot of a website called the Science Times shows a June 2020 headline that says "Bill Gates, Zukerberg, other billionaires invest in environmentally-friendly artificial breast milk cultured from human mammary."
A May 11 Facebook post that shared the screenshot reads: "Now you know why there’s suddenly a ‘formula shortage.’ The new age robber barons have conveniently invested in some unholy breast milk made from human organs."
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
There is no evidence that investments involving Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg in artificial breast milk have anything to do with the formula shortage.
The story featured in the post was published on June 20, 2020, and detailed how a startup company called BIOMILQ is artificially producing human breast milk from cultured human mammary cells in an effort to limit greenhouse gases created in formula manufacturing.
The company received $3.5 million from an investment fund co-founded by Gates, Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, the story said. The billion dollar fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, was established to help prevent the effects of climate change and is backed by some of the world's top entrepreneurs.
Neither BIOMILQ nor the fund’s investment in the company have anything to do with the current shortage. Leila Strickland, BIOMILQ’s co-founder and chief science officer, told CNN on May 3 that the company is still three to five years away from getting a product to market.
The shortage is due in part to a February 2022 formula recall by Abbott, a major U.S. manufacturer of baby food, that halted production at its Sturgis, Michigan, plant. It’s also due to supply chain issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic that were already impacting the infant formula industry. High inflation also appears to have compounded the problem.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been working to increase supply in the country and reported that other infant formula manufacturers are meeting or exceeding capacity levels in an attempt to meet current demand.
"Efforts already underway by several infant formula manufacturers include optimizing processes and production schedules to increase product output, as well as prioritizing product lines that are of greatest need, particularly the specialty formulas," the agency wrote in a May 10 news release.
Some other things the FDA is doing to address the shortage include:
Helping manufacturers bring safe products to market, particularly specialized formulas for medical needs.
Compiling data on in-stock rates at both national and regional levels to help ensure appropriate supplies of formula are going where it is needed.
Improving and streamlining systems to increase imports of permitted products from other countries.
A Facebook post claims that the formula shortage was manufactured because Zuckerberg and Gates invested in a company that makes artificial breast milk.
There is no evidence that an investment in BIOMILQ by a fund Zuckerberg and Gates are involved in has anything to do with the current infant formula shortage.
The shortage unfolded due to a recall by a major U.S. manufacturer of baby food and existing supply chain issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
BIOMILQ says it is still three to five years away from getting a product to market.
We rate this False.
Facebook post, May 11, 2022
The Atlantic, What’s Behind America’s Shocking Baby-Formula Shortage?, May 12, 2022
CNN, Lab-grown 'human milk' may be just three years away, May 3, 2022
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Abbott Voluntarily Recalls Powder Formulas Manufactured at One Plant, Feb. 17, 2022
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA Takes Important Steps to Improve Supply of Infant and Specialty Formula Products, May 10, 2022
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