Why 'White Gold' Baby Formula Milk Is Causing Outrage As Parents Stockpile And Tins Are Shipped To China

15/11/2015 12:05 PM AEDT | Updated November 15, 2015 12:05
ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this Friday, April 10, 2015 photo, a woman walks past cans of baby formula stacked in a shop at a district regarded as a hub of "parallel trading" near the Chinese border in Hong Kong. Eighteen years after this world financial hub returned from colonial British control to Chinese rule, many say they feel more alienated and less trusting than ever of the central Chinese government and even the people visiting from across the border. Called “parallel trading” because it happens in a gray area alongside legal trade, such commerce has become an especially visible target of Hong Kongers’ anger. Chinese visitors cross into the city, which has no sales tax and a reputation for authentic goods, to buy up baby formula, smartphones, luxury goods, diapers and medicine and then resell them at a profit in the mainland, warping the local economy and causing shortages. (AP Photo/vincent Yu)

If you're not a parent, or don't use baby formula, the dummy spit about milk stockpiling this week may have gone over your head.

A photo went viral of a group going through a Wooloworths checkout with two trolleys loaded with crates of baby formula while another mum stood guard over the remaining three boxes.

The photo was clutched upon by parents who have been struggling to regularly buy the formula their baby or toddler relied upon.

There is now a petition calling for a two-can limit in supermarkets and the Federal Government is looking for solutions.

Isn't toddler and baby formula a common, easy-to-access product?

A large proportion of Australia's toddler and baby formula is being bought by the Chinese market, either through direct shipping or enterprising re-sellers who buy in Australia and sell in China, turning huge profits.

According to global market researchers Euromonitor, baby food demand in China has increased 10 fold in a decade, and with the one-child policy ending, there is no sign of abating.

Ben Sun from digital marketing firm Think China told News.com.au there were more than 3000 people buying formula in Australia and selling it on Chinese platforms in Sydney alone, making $100,000 a year.

“They would be making much more than that if they’re doing well,” he told News.com.au.

“Almost every Chinese student would know someone doing this work around them.”

baby formula

Why doesn't a Chinese manufacturer make a product for locals?

In 2004, more than 50 babies reportedly died after drinking a counterfeit infant formula.

In 2008, six babies died and more than 15,000 babies and toddlers were hospitalised when the chemical melamine poisoned milk.

In this climate of fear and mistrust, many parents prefer internationally produced formulas.

What brands are in demand and aren't there alternatives?

The three main brands in demand are A2, Bellamy’s and Karicare but other formulas have also been known to sell out.

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton told Fairfax Media the brands didn't have anything particularly different in their ingredients but Sydney mother Jessica Tucson told The Huffington Post Australia it was about trust.

"When you start your baby on a formula, it's because you've done your research and you trust it," she told HuffPost Australia.

"For me, I wasn't able to breastfeed and it was an emotional time having to turn to formula, so once I made my choice, I stuck with it."

baby formula

What's the government doing about this?

The Minister assisting the Minister for Trade Richard Colbeck has started talking short-term solutions with big retailers, including Coles and Woolworths, in bid to find an industry solution to the shortage.

The Minister said he believed the industry needed to grow the market in the long term and said it is a compliment that Chinese consumers wanted Australia’s high quality, safe product.

How is the industry responding?

On Thursday, Australian brand Pharma Care released an alternative called Kids Smart Infant Formula and Toddler Milk with more than 60,000 tins shipped to chemists around Australia.

Australian start up Marzie’s Baby Formula, meanwhile, launched a crowd funding campaign to start operating a high-volume formula factory in Sydney.

In the meantime, shortages continue.

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