No plans to lift powdered baby formula restriction, says minister

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 7:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 7:49pm

Health secretary Dr Ko Wing-man on Tuesday rejected suggestions Hong Kong would soon lift a newly imposed restriction on the exports of infant milk formula.

His comment appeared to be an effort to clear up rumours that the city was under pressure from the mainland to lift the restriction.

Speaking after a public event in Ocean Park, Ko said the government would retain the restriction until a sufficient supply for Hong Kong mothers was ensured.

“We will not set a date for cancelling the restriction when there is no way to guarantee the supply to local mothers is sufficient,” he said.

The restriction, which came into effect on March 1, bans travellers from carrying more than two cans of infant milk formula out of Hong Kong without prior approval.

While most Hongkongers welcomed the ban as an effective measure to stop mainland travellers buying up the food in the city, it has outraged some mainland tourists, who say it is discriminatory and too harsh.

The tension grew further after customs officers arrested 12 mainlanders who were crossing a border checkpoint with rice-based baby cereal.

Ko later apologised to the tourists after one of them demanded an apology from Hong Kong officials.

On Tuesday, Ko said officials would work toward clearly defining what is mean by ‘powdered milk formula’ to avoid similar trouble in the future.

“We hope we will be able to table an amendment to the definition of powdered formula to make it clearer,” he said.

“Our aim is to help our front-line law enforcement officers to more easily identify products that are under restriction,” Ko said.

The amendment will be tabled to the Legislative Council for scrutiny later this week.