Baby, or infant, formula is a manufactured food for babies often used as a substitute for breast milk. It is a powder or liquid concentrate that is mixed with water and fed through a bottle. It is widely used in Asia, which represents 53% of the global market share. In Hong Kong, a shortage in availability of baby formula led to restrictions on how much could be taken out of the city and into mainland China.
Dutch authorities probe China link to baby milk shortages
Chinese traffickers believed to be behind absence of certain brands from shelves
The Dutch government yesterday ordered an investigation into persistent shortages of certain brands of baby formula, blamed on networks of traffickers who ship milk powder to China where it is sold at premium prices.
Deputy Economic Affairs Minister Sharon Dijksma ordered the Dutch food and consumer watchdog to look into a huge rise in demand for baby milk linked to so-called "baby milk runners", who bulk-buy powder in shops before sending it to China.
"I want to gather information ... over the bulk buying and trade in the Netherlands in order to inform Chinese authorities that they are getting batches of milk powder that do not conform to their regulations," Dijksma said.
There is growing concern in the Netherlands, one of Europe's leading dairy producers, about a looming national shortage of infant formula, with shoppers reporting that at least two popular brands were almost impossible to find on shop shelves.
"Dutch consumers can still find baby formula, but it's getting harder and harder," Dutch Food Industry Federation (FNLI) director Philip den Ouden said.
The FNLI and food retail representatives met on Monday to discuss the shortages, saying a measure to merely restrict the number of tins of formula per customer was not enough.
Alarm bells over infant formula went off earlier this year when retailers saw a 50 per cent spike in sales figures from the last quarter of 2012, said Den Ouden.