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NewsHong Kong

Hongkongers appeal to US over baby formula shortage

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 11:23am

Hongkongers are appealing for help from US President Barack Obama as infant formula supplies continue to run low despite the government having pledged to guarantee supply.

A petition, entitled "Baby hunger outbreak in Hong Kong, international aid requested", was created on Tuesday on the White House website's "We the People" section. There, individuals can create and sign petitions to request action by the US federal government. 

"Local parents in Hong Kong can hardly buy baby formula milk powder in drugstores and supermarkets, as smugglers from mainland China storm to this tiny city to buy milk powder and resell it for huge profits in China," it reads. "We request international support and assistance as babies in Hong Kong will face malnutrition very soon."

A minimum 100,000 signatures are necessary before a February 28 deadline to trigger a response from the White House. The appeal comes just days ahead of an expected government announcement of measures to deal with the shortage.

Speaking on RTHK yesterday, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said the government was studying the feasibility of making baby formula a reserved commodity like rice. That would curb trading by mainlanders, who are blamed for the shortage and inflated prices.

"In two or three days, the government may be able to announce some new measures. We are now discussing the details," Ko said.

Executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who proposed the measure, has also suggested that each traveller be allowed to carry at most two cans of formula out of the city. Ko said in case of a quota, an exemption would be made for local parents.

Many pharmacies in the New Territories were sold out of formula yesterday, with government announcements having aggravated the usual rush of mainland shoppers ahead of the Lunar New Year.

Most stores in Sheung Shui appeared to be out of stock. But outside one branch of Watsons, a mainland woman and her son packed 40 tins of formula into bags and suitcases to take home.

"My children are grown, but I give these as gifts to family members for the New Year," she said. "I bought some extra when I heard the government was thinking of restricting purchases."

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Renegade Barry
Hong Kong can ask help from ASEAN. It can ask other countries if they have Infant formulas that can be sold to Hong Kong. It cannot rely on US alone. There are a lot of companies in different countries out there willing to sell to Hong Kong and I hope the government will bar illegal smugglers from the Mainland in taking away Hong Kong's milk supply.
ako@unical.com
Might "We the People" section be for US Citizens? Sad that Hongkongers cannot appeal to its own government or Beijing.
basicblue
Who put up the petition on the U.S. government website, the mainland traders so they could just get more formula to smuggle to the mainland ??????
dgillham
I think this is the time for HK Government highly promote Nursing your own baby than depends on Formula.
Comrade Crunch
HK People are now begging? This is a new low.
pangkf
As the government is ineffectual, the people become useless and ridiculous now. People are just following the rule of the game because being smart brings you nowhere!
shafinhk
Most Chinese mothers does not have enough milk in their Brests, i know some who were only able to have very little milk for just two weeks and end up on formula milk. With respect, some even don't have Brest, milk is far thinking. So for most Chinese mothers breast feeding is not possible.
The problem is with China Customs who fails to STOP these Ant smugglers, Hong Kong Government should send Hong Kong Custom Officers to stand with Mainland Customer officers and assist them in arresting those who are breaking the mainland custom laws.
Arresting these people in Hong Kong is useless as here they are only genuine businessmen and buy the goods with their own money.
And for MTR, there is no harm if MTR can assign them the last compartment for travelling only. those who got Heavy luggage like these Ant smugglers should be asked to stay in the last compartment and immigration control point can have a separate line for them to cross the boarder.
dgillham
To be honest, most of the mom have enough milk for their babies for the first half years. It is painful for the first week, but your whole body will adjust later. I nurse my 3 kids until they are year old, you can save a lot of money and keep your kids immune system strong.
jhk
You say it's not physically possible for most Chinese mothers to breast feed. Then, may I ask how they did before milk powder existed? Not being able to feed their kids would have led to very few children surviving. However, looking at the size of the Chinese population suggests that so has not been the case.
haklh
Why hasn't the HK Government used this opportunity to encourage breast feeding? Breast feeding is a key recommendation of the World Health Organisation. Breastmilk is nutritionally superior to formula and it's FREE. Even if the mother works full-time, she can include some breastmilk in her baby's diet. And formula milk is particularly unnecessary for older children - cow's or goat's milk is usually just as good. It seems like Hongkongers have been taken in by milk powder manufacturers for too long. A focus on protecting supplies will protect company profits more than the nutritional needs of children.

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