Fact check: False claim that states are sending free baby formula to Similac, Enfamil callers

The claim: States will send free baby formula to those who call Similac or Enfamil’s customer service 

A baby formula shortage that has resulted in empty shelves around the country has also led to social media posts purporting to have ways to help panicked parents. 

“Due to the shortage of formula if you call enfamil or similac they will notify the state you can’t find any for your child and the state will send you a 6 pack of 12 Oz cans to your address ! For free!!” reads a May 16 Facebook post that was shared more than 21,000 times in one day.

Other versions of the claim spread widely across social media.

The phone numbers listed in the post are real, but the claim is not. Calling will give long hold times but no free formula.

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USA TODAY reached out to users who shared the claim for comment.

Shelves that would normally be stocked with baby formula are empty at a CVS in New Orleans on May 16.

Claims are 'not valid offers,' Abbott Nutrition says 

The claims are “not valid offers,” said Karen Twigg May, a spokesperson for Abbott Nutrition, which manufactures Similac. She lamented that families are “expending time and energy chasing down false leads.”

May said the company has worked with the Department of Agriculture and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children to provide rebates for competitive products when Similac is not available. Abbott Nutrition has committed to the measure through Aug. 31. 

The number for Similac, included in the social media posts, featured an automated message debunking the claims as well.

“Some social media posts have rumored we’re providing free cases of Similac infant formula. This is not true,” the message said. “We understand the anxiety of parents who are facing empty shelves, and we are doing everything we can to get more formula to families.”

Enfamil did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment on the claim, but there is also no record of the company announcing any such program.

USA TODAY also attempted to reach Enfamil through the customer service phone number listed on the posts, which matches the number on the company's website. After 90 minutes on hold, an automated message said the company was unable to take the call and disconnected.

The Similac recording referred callers to its website's information center, which included details on the agreement with the FDA to reopen a Michigan facility affected by a voluntary recall in February once certain conditions are met.

It will take between six and eight weeks once the facility resumes production before the product is available on store shelves, according to a news release.

The release also referenced several measures the company has taken to get formula in the hands of those who need it most, which included releasing metabolic formulas that were on hold in early May “on an urgent case by case basis" and its rebate program.

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

The free formula claim was also debunked by PolitiFact and Lead Stories.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that states will send people free baby formula if they call Similac or Enfamil’s customer service. Neither of the phone numbers included in the claim indicate any such thing, and Similac officials have confirmed there is no such program.

Our fact-check sources: 

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