Coles has relaxed its baby formula purchase limits. Picture: Nathan Edwards
Coles has relaxed its baby formula purchase limits. Picture: Nathan Edwards

Coles in baby formula backdown

COLES has raised its purchase limits on baby formula citing "recent improvements in supply", in a sign the long-running shelf shortages may be coming to an end.

Coles, Woolworths and chemist chains introduced four-tin and later two-tin limits in a bid to prevent highly sought-after brands such as A2, Bellamy's and Aptamil being stripped from shelves by "daigou", or personal shoppers, who resell the products to customers in China at inflated prices.

Some daigou can make more than $100,000 a year selling baby formula, vitamins, Weet-Bix and other popular Australian products on social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo, and through Alibaba's online shopping sites Tmall Global and Taobao.

Retailers have faced ongoing complaints from angry mothers, while scenes of shoppers stripping shelves, filling trolleys and car boots and even jostling in the aisles have regularly generated outrage on social media.

"Coles is committed to ensuring our customers have access to the volume of infant formula they require to feed their children," a spokeswoman said. "Due to recent improvements in supply, we have lifted our sales restrictions on infant formula to eight units per customer."

Not everyone was happy, however. "Hi Coles, I hope you're doing better than those mothers who have their babes on Aptamil DeLact," Courtney Jade posted on Coles' Facebook page.

"Imagine my shock when something that was $19 last week, and still is at Woolworths, is now $20.50 - AND the two-tin limit increased to a whopping EIGHT! Craziness! Profiteering at innocent babies' expense. Down, down, your morals are down!'"

Woolworths has confirmed its two-tin purchase limit remains in place.

In April, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson waded into the debate, calling for tougher purchase restrictions on the sale of baby formula. Ms Hanson said her daughter Lee was having difficulty accessing formula for her newborn son.

"It is a big problem and I feel sorry for the mothers here who have trouble getting the formula as my daughter did," Senator Hanson told Channel 7's Sunrise. "What I hear is mothers are finding it difficult to get the formula. Some of the shops are running short on it."

Bellamy's declined to comment, saying it preferred to let retail outlets comment on the amount of product available on their shelves and any policies around purchasing limits.

A2 and Aptamil maker Danone Nutricia have been contacted for comment.

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