Parallel trading

Food chief denies any pressure over milk limit

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 5:40am


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The health minister has denied coming under political pressure to end the newly imposed restrictions on taking infant milk formula across the border.

The latest comments from Secretary for Food and Heath Dr Ko Wing-man came a day after he told a mainland newspaper that the two-tin limit could be lifted overnight in the short term if the market improved.

In an interview with the 21st Century Business Herald published on Friday, Ko said: "The authority will review the market effect on the supply, retail and reservations [of formula milk] regularly.

"If we find that the market has improved in the short term, we do not rule out the possibility of cancelling the restriction with immediate effect."

Yesterday, when asked if he was being leaned on to bring the controversial restrictions to a quick end, he said: "There is no political pressure at all.

"Of course, we have received many opinions and criticisms in the Legislative Council and groups in society … We should review these.

"But there is absolutely no political pressure for us to relax the law before ensuring local parents can buy enough milk formula for their infants."

The government would consider ending the law only after four main criteria were satisfied, he added. Those include making sure "the supply as a whole [is sufficient]".

The new rules came in on March 1 and limit all unlicensed exports of powdered formula for children under 36 months to two cans per traveller.

There was little mention yesterday of the rice-based baby cereals which have caused confusion at the border due to its similarity with infant milk formula. On Friday, Ko apologised to 12 mainlanders arrested by mistake for carrying baby cereal.

Ko did, however, admit there had been insufficient communication with mainlanders regarding the new law, and said the government would in future look at explaining new policies via mainland news outlets.

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, and executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong both said they had not heard of the central government putting pressure on Hong Kong over the milk curb. Tam suggested both sides discuss ways of exporting milk to the mainland via formal channels.