Australian stores limit baby formula as China demand hits stocks

SYDNEY One of Australia's biggest supermarket chains said yesterday that some stores were moving infant formula behind counters and restricting sales as it emerged customers were clearing shelves and selling it online in China for more than double the price.

Coles' decision to take the milk product off shelves follows complaints from worried mothers over supplies and after Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported 1kg tins bought for up to A$35 (S$35.20) were being resold to Chinese parents for around A$100.

"Coles is committed to ensuring that our customers with a genuine need for infant formula have access to this product," it said in a statement.

"To make sure we have formula available for customers, in some stores we are keeping infant formula behind the service desk or using specially designed electronic article surveillance lids that can only be removed at the register."

It is restricting sales to two tins a customer and working with suppliers to improve availability.

Woolworths said it had no plans to remove the product from shelves but has also tightened restrictions to two units a customer.

Demand for foreign infant milk products has soared following a series of food scares in China, including a 2008 scandal over locally produced tainted formula that left six children dead and made more than 300,000 ill. - AFP