Concerns emerge over baby formula buy-up

SOME local parents say they have experienced difficulties in obtaining infant formula, with reports tins are being bought up at local pharmacies and supermarkets.

Concerns have emerged after one local posted a photo of a man loading his vehicle with numerous boxes at the rear of an outlet in Sale.

The labels on the boxes are unclear in the photo, but the man who took it, Michael Rouse, insists they were boxes of infant formula.

“I can tell you that it was baby formula, and that he wasn’t to happy about getting his picture taken,” he told the Gippsland Times.

He said the incident occurred on December 27 as a store assistant watched the boxes being loaded.

The Gippsland Times is not alleging any illegal behaviour by the buyers or seller, but the apparent incident highlights the problems some parents are having in accessing adequate supplies of baby formula.

There have been numerous reports across Australia of supermarkets and pharmacies being targeted by Daigou, personal buyers who sell the formula in China at inflated prices.

The problem has become commonplace in capital cities like Melbourne and Sydney, but it now appears some buyers may be moving into the regions, with Gippslanders reporting shortages of formula in Sale and Traralgon.

Many supermarkets and pharmacies have introduced two-can limits, but with reports of large groups of people entering and re-entering stores to buy up, shelves are quickly de-stocked, despite the limits.

One local woman commented on the Gippsland Times Facebook page that she had recently watched four adults take turns to go into a Sale pharmacy and buy several tins each of baby formula.

“I then watched them put their purchases into the boot of the car, which was already full of tins of formula ..,” she said.

“There was no baby seat in the vehicle.

“The shelves were left empty by these purchases.”

Another local mum said she often struggled to find formula.

“Only a couple of places sell the one I use and its always a struggle to find it, with only two on the shelf maybe when I do find it,” she said.

Some have suggested making formula available only under prescription, or having it behind counters, like cigarettes.

Others are calling on the government to act, saying it is an issue of food security.

“The Daigous earn tens of thousands of untaxed income doing this, including those on student visas,” one woman commented on the Gippsland Times Facebook page.

“It continues to amaze me why the government has failed to find a solution which would see product available for local mums and the income of the shoppers taxed accordingly.

“We know the market is there, because Chinese mums do not trust their government to ensure the safety of food manufactured in China.”

Distrust over Chinese food standards appears to have driven the demand for Australian infant formula, which is considered safe.

In 2008 batches of Chinese milk powder were found to be adulterated with the toxic industrial chemical melamine.

Six babies died and 300,000 became ill.