Fact Check: Baby Formula NOT Necessarily Being Shipped For Free During Coronavirus Outbreak

Hoax Alert

  • by: Wayne Drash

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Baby Formula NOT Necessarily Being Shipped For Free During Coronavirus Outbreak

Is baby formula being shipped free to parents in desperate need of feeding newborns during the coronavirus outbreak if parents call company hotlines? No, that's not true: This is misleading - and in some cases, outright false - information being spread far and wide with varying messages on social media that essentially make the same claim: that by simply calling formula makers, a case will be shipped to you, possibly for free. Of the formula makers Lead Stories has been able to reach, this does not appear to be the case.

The claim began spreading over Facebook on Sunday March 15, 2020, and was getting shared widely by Monday. The posts were picked up by parent groups and by well-meaning people who wanted to share the information, like this post (archived here). It opened:

For parents who cannot find formula in stores for their babies right now grab the can of formula that you do have, and call the number on the back and they will send you a whole case during this time!

Users on social media saw posts like this:

It is not clear where the information originated. But a message on the parent resource hotline for Gerber (800-284-9488) says there is no such program in place:

We are aware of a rumor circulating on social media that states there are free cases of formula if you call and request them. While we are more than happy to suggest retail partners to you to help you locate our products, we do not have any sampling programs available at this time. - Gerber hotline message

Gerber is the maker of the Good Start products, which is billed as the "first and only powder infant formula line made with a unique blend of 2'-FL HMO (Human Milk Oligosaccharide) and probiotics that supports digestive health in tiny tummies."

Enfamil posted a tweet to make it clear the social media rumor was false:

We want to provide the Enfamil Community with as many answers as we can and clarify some misinformation during these uncertain times. Enfamil is fully committed to ensuring every baby gets all the Enfamil they need.
We have been working with our employees, suppliers, and distributors to maintain availability and safe, high-quality production of our formulas in the coming weeks. Enfamil products can be located through our Enfamil Store Locator and purchased directly from our Enfamil Shop at our regular retail prices. Contrary to rumors in some online social networks, we are not distributing free cases of formula. We are instead focused on ensuring equitable availability for every baby.

One Facebook group, called The Motherload, warned its users to stop sharing the message on social media:

Many parents expressed disappointment on social media when they called.

"Sadly this is a hoax," one mom wrote in a thread.

Another simply said: "Fake."

Lead Stories will contininue to update this story as warranted. To date, there have been more than 3,400 cases of coronavirus reported in the United States with a total of 68 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A statement issued by Enfamil on March 17, 2020, read:

As the world continues to watch the quickly evolving developments surrounding COVID-19, we know the health and safety of our families and loved ones is a shared priority. As such, we want to provide the Enfamil Community with as many answers as we can about the safety and availability of our products and reassure everyone that we are doing everything we can to produce and distribute quality products. We want all infants, newborns and toddlers to continue to thrive with excellent nutrition during these challenging times, and we are working to ensure families have the formulas they need.

We know families count on us and our formulas. Enfamil is fully committed to ensuring every baby gets all the Enfamil they need. We have been working with our employees, suppliers, and distributors to maintain availability and safe, high-quality production of our formulas in the coming weeks. Enfamil products can be located through our Enfamil Store Locator and purchased directly from our Enfamil Shop at our regular retail prices. Contrary to rumors in some online social networks, we are not distributing free cases of formula. We are instead focused on ensuring equitable availability for every baby based on what we know and in anticipation of what might develop in the coming weeks.

Additionally, we'd like to emphasize that our products are always made following strict quality control measures and under the most sterile and sanitary conditions possible. Offering all employees, suppliers, and distributors the information and resources they need to best protect themselves; we are confident that every product we make will continue to meet the highest efficacy, quality and safety standards you expect from Enfamil.

We are committed more than ever to doing our best to deliver our family of formulas to you and your little one. We appreciate your patience and will continue to provide updates to our Enfamil community as the public response to COVID-19 and our situation evolves.

Updates:

  • 2020-03-17T16:37:41Z 2020-03-17T16:37:41Z
    12:30 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020: Adding full statement by Enfamil about the rumors it was giving out formula for free.
  • 2020-03-17T00:22:10Z 2020-03-17T00:22:10Z
    5:30 p.m. ET, March 16, 2020: Adding Enfamil Twitter denial it is giving away free formula to callers.

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  Wayne Drash

Wayne Drash, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is a former senior producer and writer for CNN’s Health team, telling narratives about life and the unfolding drama of the world we live on. He specialized in covering complex major issues, such as health insurance, the opioid epidemic and Big Pharma.

 

Read more about or contact Wayne Drash

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