‘Improvements in supply’ was cited by retail giants as their reasoning for fluctuating tin availability. Picture: Nathan Edwards
‘Improvements in supply’ was cited by retail giants as their reasoning for fluctuating tin availability. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Crackdown as parents fight for baby formula

UPSET parents have been putting more pressure on retail giants Coles and Woolworths after new footage has surfaced of people bulk buying baby formula.

Despite various measures put in place by the supermarkets, including bringing in tin purchasing limits, parents insist problems continue and are placing their children at risk.

Shelves stripped bare at Woolworths Ryde.
Shelves stripped bare at Woolworths Ryde.

Parents appeared on A Current Affair this week, telling of going from store to store - sometimes up to six stores a day - without being able to find a single tin of formula.

Emma Cooskey, whose child relies on a particular type of formula, is finding increasingly impossible to find it.

Baby formula for sale at an off-brand ‘daigou’.
Baby formula for sale at an off-brand ‘daigou’.

The baby formula shortage is putting Australian families at risk, according to concerned parents, who rely on the milk powder to feed their infants, and they say retailers haven't done enough to stop unscrupulous shoppers from being able to buy in bulk.

In May, Coles made moves to put its baby formula behind the counter, similar to controlled products like tobacco and knives. This was after parents had taken to social media to vent their frustration at customers stockpiling and stripping shelves.

While Woolworths did not take such extreme measure of locking tins away, both retailers imposed a two tin limit on shoppers.

But in July, Coles backflipped, raising its limit to eight tins per customer, citing "recent improvements in supply". Woolworths followed suit in August.

Things have now changed again. Both Coles and Woolworths have reintroduced a two tin limit.

Coles has offered the additional advice to parents with more than one child to speak to their store manager if they feel their family has additional needs.

According to parents, the risk to Australian families is dire.

"I am worried, at the end of the day, that there is going to be a week where I can't find any formula at all and I won't be able to feed my child," said Ms Cooskey.

"And what am I supposed to do?"

The practice of sending safe Australian baby formula overseas is now believed to be commonplace - and big business. It is done via pack and send services and the shoppers are referred to as "daigous".

Coles supermarkets are locking away baby formula canisters in a bid to stop professional buyers purchasing in bulk and shipping them to China, such as at this store in Five Dock, Sydney.
Coles supermarkets are locking away baby formula canisters in a bid to stop professional buyers purchasing in bulk and shipping them to China, such as at this store in Five Dock, Sydney.

News.com.au has previously reported some business owners make as much as $100,000 a year sending baby formula and other medical products to China.

This comes as more videos surface of customers bulk purchasing the tins and stockpiling in backyards and garages, driving Australian parents to frustration.

Last week a desperate dad wrote a letter to Woolworths, begging the supermarket giant to reintroduce purchasing limits.
"The problem has become acutely worse since Woolworths increased the per customer limit to eight tins," he wrote.

"We demand Woolworths bring the limit back down to two tins per customer to ensure adequate supply for Australian families."

A shopper buying a box of baby formula.
A shopper buying a box of baby formula.


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