Bill Gates-backed artificial breast milk company is not responsible for the baby formula shortage

For many families, baby formula is a necessity. Some babies cannot consistently drink breast milk. Many lower-income mothers work hourly jobs that do not provide time to breastfeed. There is currently a baby formula shortage currently gripping the U.S. and people are looking for villains to blame. For example, this viral tweet suggests the start-up Biomilq, a company that produces lab-grown breast milk is to blame.  Conservative radio personality Wayne Dupree has also focused in on Biomilq, the start-up that has been backed-up by the world’s top investors such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg.  Red Voice Media (a media company that says it’s own and operated by “patriots”) also tries to connect Gates to the formula shortage.

The real causes for the baby formula are supply chain shortages and product recalls.1 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 lab-grown breast milk, which uses cultured human mammary cells in an effort to limit greenhouse gases, is still years from being sold in the market. Therefore, we rate the claim connecting baby formula shortage and Biomilq as false.

As reported by Samantha Putterman on Politifact…

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.

1 https://www.kcra.com/article/reason-behind-the-baby-formula-shortage/39981122#

  https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2022/04/14/baby-formula-shortage-what-know-after-recall-michigan-plant/9510554002/