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(Note: post has been updated with a response from Sean Hannity and information about baby formula vs. powdered milk for babies.)
Fox News’ Sean Hannity shared photos that falsely claimed to show “pallets and pallets” of baby formula at the southern border that were reserved for “illegal immigrants,” which CNN quickly debunked, calling the “Fox and Friends” segment an “illuminating example” in “outrage creation.”
Rep. Kat Cammack (R – Florida) joined the Fox News host on Friday to talk about the national shortage of baby formula. She’s among several Republicans who have decried President Joe Biden over his decision to provide baby formula to migrant infants. Cammack has been on several Fox shows to express outrage over the issue and shared photos she said were given to her by a Customs and Border Patrol agent.
“Pallets and pallets of baby formula for illegal immigrants and their families even as hardworking American…families, we are now suffering a massive nationwide shortage,” Hannity lamented, showing the photos on-air.
Hannity and Cammack’s characterization of the photos, however, was debatable and, according to CNN Business managing editor Alex Koppelman, both misleading and incorrect. Koppelman, who authored a report on the matter for the Reliable Sources newsletter, said the packages contain powdered milk, not baby formula.
“The photo Hannity pointed to, and the one that followed it, showed boxes and boxes clearly labeled NIDO,” the report, titled “Outrage Creation,” read. “As anyone at Fox could have discovered with about a minute’s worth of fact-checking, NIDO is not baby formula; it is powdered milk. As its maker, Nestlé, specifically notes: ‘NIDO® products are only intended for children ages 1 year and older.’”
“There is undoubtedly some formula being provided to babies in these centers at the border — you’d assume there would be, unless you expect the government to simply decide to starve babies in its care,” Koppelman continued.
“The narrative spun over the past two days on the right, though, has let people imagine not a little bit of necessary food but rivers of formula going to the undocumented over themselves. It’s an illuminating example of how Republican politicians and right-wing media work in concert, turning the thinnest possible set of facts into days of outrage over Them getting something You deserve — and then, as with the photos Hannity and ‘Fox & Friends’ used, abandoning facts altogether.”
Hannity took to Twitter to argue his point. “As this picture shows (which aired in the same segment), there is in fact baby formula at the border and two of the additional pictures we aired during the interview w/ Rep. Cammack were milk products for babies over 1 years old,” he wrote, adding that when he reached out to the White House and Department of Homeland Security for comment, he said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended sending baby formula to the border.
However, powdered milk for “babies over 1 year old” is not formula. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “A healthy baby should drink breast milk or formula until they are 1 year old. “Generally, babies should have at least 24 ounces per day between the ages of 9 months to 1 year. But once your baby starts eating a full diet of nutritious solid foods, make the switch to cow’s milk, which offers protein and vitamin D.”
Pampers agrees, writing that “The general rule of thumb is to start transitioning from formula to cow’s milk at 1 year, but not anytime sooner,” and suggests to “wait until your baby is at least 12 months old to start transitioning from formula to milk.” On a similar note, Yummy Toddler Food writes that “babies should stop drinking formula by 12 months of age.”
The reason, they say is: 1) “When a baby turns a year old, they are typically eating three meals and two snacks a day, and are getting the majority of their nutrition from food.” And 2) “Continuing to use formula can reduce a child’s appetite for food and can potentially cause challenges with learning to like a range of foods and textures.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “some 40% of the nation’s baby formula is out of stock,” citing Abbott Laboratories’ February recall of several brands and the closure of a Michigan plant after four infants fell deathly ill after ingesting powdered formula that contained bacteria. “Last year Abbott accounted for 42% of the U.S. formula market, about 95% of which is produced domestically,” WSJ reported.