Are Companies Sending Out Baby Formula Samples During A Shortage?

Update 7/18/22: This story has been amended to include statement from Reckitt and Walgreens.

When something out-of-the-ordinary happens, it isn't unusual for social media users to send their messages out into the virtual void, to find out whether there might be others who might share the same experience, or even to call attention to something that might seem off.

Such was the case with the person who shared a July 16 Twitter thread addressed to Walgreens with an image of a box of infant formula samples and the caption: "Dear @Walgreens I received this package today a week after purchasing a pregnancy test at your store. I was asked to take the test by my doctor despite having no Fallopian tubes." 

She continues in a thread: "I, of course, used my rewards card when checking out. So, I'm pretty sure that's how this got to me. Let's consider some things ... THERE IS A FORMULA SHORTAGE, and yet @Enfamil is sending out formula all willy-nilly based on the data you clearly sold them."

For its part, Reckitt Benckiser Group, which produces Enfamil, told Mashed in a statement: "Reckitt, which includes the Enfamil brand, is committed to protecting our consumers' privacy, and we treat your personal information extremely seriously. Reckitt does not have access to Walgreens' customer personal information. To receive any promotional items from Reckitt, consumers must opt-in and provide consent either with Reckitt directly or with one of its partners." Walgreens provided Mashed with a similar statement, saying that "Walgreens does not provide individual customer purchase information to Enfamil."

People have been receiving unsolicited boxes of formula for more than a decade

While the outreach might have come as a shock to this particular social media user, it's not an isolated incident. Various customers have been talking about receiving unexpected boxes of formula from formula manufacturers such as Mead Johnson or Abbott Nutrition as far back as the early 2000s — and it didn't matter whether or not they were actually pregnant, per NBC Chicago.

Comments have also been shared on parenting forums such as What to Expect, where people reported getting boxes of formula with their names and addresses. "I never ordered any formula or anything so I'm confused why they sent me it or how they even got my address? Has this happened to anyone else and have any idea on where it came from?! I'm a little sketched out and don't want to use it if I don't know where it came from. Anyone??" one confused person posted.

While many of the people who received the boxes felt their privacy had been invaded, they were also triggered by the fact that boxes of formula were being sent out for free during a time when there's a baby formula shortage, per Insider.