Health minister Dr Ko Wing-man has asked parents to stock up on infant formula to cope with the anticipated rise in demand during the Christmas and Lunar New Year holidays.
Ko also reassured them that the government would not lift the two-tin milk powder limit for outbound travellers unless local supply was stable.
His remarks came as signs of a shortage in the city emerged. Yesterday, mothers trying to place orders for one popular brand, Mead Johnson, through its hotline were told it would take at least three days for delivery after orders were confirmed.
During visits to grocery stores and pharmacies in Sha Tin, Tai Wai, and Kowloon Tong yesterday, a South China Morning Post reporter was also told some of the brand's products had sold out.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki questioned whether Ko's "appeal" to parents showed the government had no confidence in its measures to maintain a stable supply of formula for local babies.
Unionist legislator Wong Kwok-hing echoed Kwok's views. Wong added: "Dr Ko's appeal could cause panic buying."
Ko said his was only a "gentle reminder". "It is only natural for parents to prepare and buy more baby formula before long holidays," he said.
The government imposed a two-tin restriction on infant formula for outbound travellers in March after a run on certain brands of formula early this year. Ko said it had been effective. The surge in demand was widely attributed to the boom in parallel-goods trading to the mainland.
The NeoDemocrats' Gary Fan Kwok-wai said: "Imposing the milk ban is not addressing the crux of the problem. We should stop the influx of visitors from China."