Retailers fear baby formula control

Retailers are concerned the latest proposal to limit the amount of baby formula tourists can buy would damage the city's reputation.

Caroline Mak, chairwoman of the Retail Management Association, said Hong Kong's reputation of a free market and a shopping heaven could be damaged.

Mak said local mothers can purchase baby formula via "Mother's Club" set up by suppliers and have it delivered in three or four days.

She added the recent milk powder shortage was due to one-sided information released by local media, driving panic buying among local parents.

Netizens have slammed Mak's comments writing on forums that retailers are purely looking at maximising profits instead of the benefit of local parents and babies.

The government announced on Friday it would amend the import and export law to limit the amount of baby formula visitors leaving Hong Kong to two cans and the measure is expected to take effect as soon as this month.

Scandals involving food produced in China - including milk and milk powder - over the past few years have driven mainland consumers to shop for daily commodities in Hong Kong and in turn angering local residents for leading to shortages and pushing up prices.

High import taxes in China have also created a booming parallel-trading market for traders to buy milk powder in Hong Kong and resell them in China for profits.

Hong Kong people have been so frustrated they have launched a petition on a White House website saying local parents cannot find enough milk powder for their babies and the local government is failing to solve the problem.