U.K. Retailers Begin Rationing Baby Formula in Response to Chinese Demand

Local supermarkets in the United Kingdom have begun limiting sales on how much baby milk powder can be purchased in store, in response to fears that they are being illegally exported to China

  • Share
  • Read Later
China Photos / Getty Images

A baby drinks milk in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 2, 2010

Local supermarkets in the U.K. have begun limiting sales on how much baby milk powder can be purchased in store, in response to fears that the powder is being illegally exported to China.

In stores like Tesco and Sainsbury’s, customers will be limited to buying two units of baby formula per day. Retailers and manufacturers alike are hoping that the impact will be minimal for local residents who are buying it for their children.

(MORE: Mainland Chinese Traders Milking Hong Kong for All Its Worth)

Danone, which manufactures several well-known infant formulas, told the BBC, “We understand that the increased demand is being fueled by unofficial exports to China to satisfy the needs of parents who want Western brands for their babies.” To meet demand, Danone has promised to increase production in both China and the U.K.

‘We would like to apologize to parents for any inconvenience caused by this limit,” they added.

The Chinese demand for foreign baby formula has been surging ever since a massive scandal involving locally produced formula in 2008. A local Chinese manufacturer was found to have added melamine — a chemical resin used in plastics manufacturing that is known to cause renal and urinary problems — into baby milk powder. As a result, at least six babies died while approximately 300,000 other infants became ill.

(MORE: Tainted Baby-Milk Scandal in China)

The health scare has caused scores of Chinese parents to attempt to purchase milk powder abroad, in an effort to secure an untainted supply.

On Monday, five people attempting to smuggle formula were arrested in Hong Kong. The former British colony prohibits visitors from taking back more than 4 lb. of baby formula back to mainland China. The surge in demand has left Hong Kong with chronic shortages.

Australia also faced similar shortages earlier this year, and was also forced to impose restrictions on Chinese tourists buying infant formula in bulk.


Still using baby formula, when breast milk is obviously superior.  Chinese and British women need to start feeding the natural, safer way.


@cynth217 You can't just "start" breastfeeding if you're weeks into formula. Relactating to a full supply is not a realistic option for women who work or women who don't have someone to care for their children while they pump 20 minutes every 2 hours. If things don't go right in the first few days after birth -- or even the first few hours -- supply can be permanently compromised. To tell these moms who are struggling to find food for their babies, "Just start breastfeeding" is very ignorant.


@cynth217 Its's not that easy for a lot of women, unfortunately. I live in the Unites States where the majority formula feed, there isn't a lot of support here.


Breastfeeding rates on the rise

Breastfeeding rates continue to rise, with increases of about 2 percentage points in breastfeeding initiation, and breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months. Breastfeeding initiation increased from 74.6% in 2008 to 76.9% in 2009 births. This improvement in initiation represents the largest annual increase over the previous decade. Breastfeeding at 6 months increased from 44.3% to 47.2%; breastfeeding at 12 months increased from 23.8% to 25.5%.