Australian parents have expressed anger after a photo emerged of a group of four customers buying two trolley-loads of baby formula from a Woolworths store.
The photo, originally posted by mother-of-two Jessica Hay, was taken at Woolworths at Epping Plaza in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon and showed nearly a pallet-load of hard-to-find A2 Platinum baby formula being wiped out in one go.
Mrs Hay told media she had taken the photos while another woman begged staff to stop the sale of such a large amount of baby formula to one customer, but the staff refused to intervene.
“My blood was boiling for the mothers having problems finding A2 for their babies. I was feeling sensitive because I’ve got a newborn,” she said.
“If they were with babies, it would be understandable, they need to feed their kids too. But it felt like a smooth operation, like they did this all the time.”
Woolworths has a publically stated policy of a limiting formula purchases to eight tins per customer given the global shortage, driven by strong demand from China.
A man who identified himself as Mr Wang said in radio programme that China needed to produce its own baby formula.
“If China can produce good quality baby formula, why would people by from overseas?” he said.
“Chinese government seems being capable to do anything, why can’t they solve the milk problem that is related to their next generation?”
Another person, Ms Li said in the same radio programme that people who bought formula in bulk made life difficult for local mothers.
“I think it’s time for those bulk buyers to stop, to think in others’ shoes,” she said.
“[There are] heaps of ways to make money but not to hurt others.”
Tins of formula can sell for upwards of $100 on sites like ebay.
The photo has since spread across the internet and Woolworth’s Facebook page has been bombarded by questions and complaints about the bulk-buying of formula and the failure of the supermarket to enforce its own limit.
A petition has emerged online calling for all supermarkets to enforce a two-tin limit per customer while the shortage continues.
Demand for foreign baby formula is high in China after it was discovered in 2008 that locally-produced formula was tainted with melamine.
Woolworths said the supermarket “works to ensure there is always sufficient stock for all of our customers in our supermarkets”.
“In the case of baby formula we have an eight can limit per transaction to make sure all shoppers have the opportunity to purchase the items they need,” the statement said.