The formula shortage is the result of a product recall by a major manufacturer as well as supply chain disruptions due to recent global events.
Amid this, some users on social media are pushing a narrative that billionaire Bill Gates is trying to control the supply chain by making considerable investments in the production of artificial human milk. One such post claimed a chain of events in which Pfizer recommended vaccinated mothers not to breastfeed, the short supply of baby formula, and Bill Gates' investment in artificial human milk research and production. However, we found that these claims are false.
The formula shortage started during the pandemic and worsened after a recall from Abbott Nutrition, a major manufacturer of infant formula in the U.S. Production was halted after reports of contaminated formula, which led to two infant deaths. Abbott Nutrition is one of the few brands which sell infant formula due to strict FDA regulations, and the recall has driven the shortage.
Breastfeeding rates among mothers in the U.S. is low. Parents increasingly rely on formula as the main source of essential nutrition for babies. Factors like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, increased demand for products following the ease of pandemic restrictions, high inflation, and ongoing supply disruptions have affected the availability of some products. This combination of short and long-term factors on the supply side has triggered the recent crisis.
Bill Gates' investment firm Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which focuses on climate change, has backed a startup fund called BIOMILQ. BIOMILQ is developing artificial human breast milk while limiting greenhouse gas emissions produced in formula manufacturing. The founders have said that the product development will take at least five years until it will be available to the public in stores.
Furthermore, we did not find evidence that Pfizer recommended vaccinated mothers refrain from breastfeeding. Social media posts containing a screenshot from Pfizer claiming this have been debunked by Reuters.
Nowadays, Bill Gates has become a target for spreading various baseless conspiracy theories involving vaccines and climate change. There is no evidence that investments made by Bill Gates have led to the current shortage of baby food. Hence we have marked the claim as false.