Fact check: Image of boxes in warehouse unrelated to baby formula shortage

Dezimey Kum

The claim: Image shows a stockpile of baby formula at the border

As parents grapple with the nationwide baby formula shortage driven by a voluntary recall from Abbott Nutrition, the ongoing crisis has sparked misinformation online.

Social media users shared an image purporting to show pallets of baby formula sent to a warehouse at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"#BabyFormulaShortage Plenty at the border," reads the text of a Facebook post shared May 12.

The post generated over 100 shares within three days. Similar claims have circulated on Facebook.

But the image does not show packages of baby formula at the southern border.

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The image was taken in 2020 and shows a stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) at a warehouse during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brand names such as 3M, which doesn't make baby formula, can be seen on boxes in the Facebook post.

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

Image was captured in 2020 in Los Angeles County

Countywide Communications, the media relations team of Los Angeles County, published the image under an album titled, "COVID-19: Personal Protective Equipment Distribution," on its Flickr page in April 2020.

The boxes include surgical and protective masks the county stored at a distribution hub before sending them to health care facilities, according to the Flickr description. Capt. Danielle McMillion, the woman in the photo handling supplies, works for the county’s fire department.

The Los Angeles Times also published the image with the caption, "L.A. County Fire Department lifeguard Danielle McMillon surveys a stockpile of surgical and protective masks in a secret government warehouse and destined for local hospitals.” 

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A similar image of McMillion checking the stockpile of boxes was also posted on the Flickr page. Labels displaying Kimberly-Clark, a PPE manufacturing company, can be seen on several boxes.

Federal government required by 1997 settlement to provide formula for detained migrant children

This image is circulating as the Biden administration draws criticism for formula sent to the border amid the shortage.

On May 13, White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed the criticism from Republican lawmakers who claimed the Biden administration prioritizes sending baby formula to the border.

But border officials are required by a lawsuit settlement to provide humane treatment – like formula – to migrant children detained at the border processing facility.

First signed in 1997, the Flores settlement agreement sets strict national standards for federal government detention of migrant children. The settlement requires adequate food, access to drinking water and provision of medical assistance and other necessities for children. 

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Since at least 2015, Customs and Border Protection has acknowledged baby formula as part of its detention standards, according to an agency document. It says food provided by the agency "must be appropriate for at-risk detainees’ age and capabilities – such as formula and baby food."

Our rating: False

We rate FALSE the claim that an image shows a stockpile of baby formula at the border, based on our research. The image is from 2020 and shows a LA County warehouse full of boxes of PPE.

Our fact-checking sources: 

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