Customs Officials Seize HK$1 Million Worth of Infant Formula

With persistent health and safety issues with China-made infant formula, parents have taken advantage of trips to Hong Kong and abroad to stock up on supplies for their infants. As a result, the global supply has taken a hit and several countries have now limited sales of formula. People traveling over the border from Hong Kong are only permitted to carry two tins, so gray market sales of formula have become big business for some in Hong Kong. On Monday, police seized more than HK$1 million worth of formula from a warehouse used for parallel goods sales. From the South China Morning Post:

In the raid, the officials arrested two masterminds of a parallel-goods trading syndicate storing the powder. The man and woman , aged 20 and 51 respectively, were both from Hong Kong.

Five parallel-goods traders – aged between 21 and 50, and all from Hong Kong – were also arrested at the Lo Wu border checkpoint. About 20kg of was found on them.

Chan Tsz-tat, customs’ syndicate crimes investigation bureau divisional commander, said the two masterminds were found withdrawing stock from the warehouse and distributing it to parallel-goods traders near the Sheung Shui MTR station.

The traders travelled across the border several times a day, with at least two tins of milk powder each time, he said.

Chan said the syndicate involved more than the five traders nabbed, and that the department was still looking into the case.

While many who smuggle baby formula have just found an easy way to make quick money, others are now bringing supplies into the mainland with more charitable goals. From another SCMP report:

Newly joined are professional-looking young men and women, middle-aged housewives, and veteran day-trippers, many of whom are Hong Kong citizens, said media reports.

By trading in two tins of infant formula in the mainland side of Lo Wu border checkpoint, they make an easy HK$60 to HK$80 per trip – considered decent pocket money by many.

“Anyone who travels to Hong Kong should buy two tins on your way back,” wrote blogger Shi Liqin on Weibo, “This good deed will benefit China’s babies.”

Some others disagreed and said they were worried it would harm China’s milk powder industry and consumers in the long-term.

“When will China ever produce its own high-quality baby formula milk?” wrote a blogger.

Foreign brands are jumping in to the fill the demand for formula and both Danone and New Zealand’s Fonterra announced plans this week to sell milk powder in China.

April 9, 2013 10:43 PM
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Categories: Economy, Hong Kong, Society