UK (Sky News)

Coronavirus: Advice for parents struggling to find baby formula as eBay sellers try to cash in

By March 20, 2020 No Comments
An NHS trust has urged parents not to dilute baby formula

Parents struggling to find baby formula during the coronavirus outbreak have been issued advice after it emerged it was being sold on eBay for more than £300.

Several popular brands are being sold at hugely inflated prices on the online auction site as supermarkets face shortages because of shoppers stockpiling.

Sky News found an 800g box of Aptamil first infant milk, usually priced at around £11, being sold on eBay on Thursday morning for £310.

One eBay seller was offering a box of baby formula for £310
One eBay seller was offering a box of baby formula for £310

Meanwhile, an 800g box of SMA advance growing up milk, usually sold for around £16, was offered on the auction site for £299.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust offered advice to parents unable to find baby formula and dispelled “several myths” about what action should be taken.

“We are aware that some people are feeling as though they need to stockpile infant formula milk leaving some shops empty or short of infant formula – also that there are several myths circulating across various social media sites,” the trust said.

“We would like to clarify a few points for everyone.

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“Infant formula milk companies will not send you free tins in bulk.

“Your GP is unable to write prescriptions for infant formula milk which would normally be available via supermarkets and other shops.

“If you are unable to obtain your infant formula from your usual shop please try other shops. Your chemist may be able to order direct from the manufacturer for you to purchase.

“Please do not dilute your baby’s feeds to make them go further as this can make your baby poorly.”

An eBay seller was offering a box of SMA baby formula for £299
An eBay seller was offering a box of SMA baby formula for £299

The makers of several popular baby formula brands have told parents they are working with retailers to deal with supermarket shortages during the coronavirus outbreak.

In a message to parents, Vicky Woods, managing director of SMA Nutrition, said the company was “working around the clock to keep up with the unprecedented increase in demand”.

“I know it’s upsetting when you can’t find the baby milk you need, so I thought I would share with you some of the steps we’ve taken to try and manage during these extraordinary circumstances,” she said.

“We have increased the amount of formula we produce in our factories.

“We have also been working closely with retailers to make sure that we get our baby milk to individual stores as quickly as possible.”

Empty supermarket shelves in Coton near Leeds, Yorkshire
Empty supermarket shelves in Coton near Leeds, Yorkshire

Ms Woods added: “If you still have trouble finding what you need, speak to the store customer services or try a different shop.

“Your local pharmacy should also be able to order it for you. Shops are regularly restocking the shelves but if you continue to have problems then please do come back to us.”

In statements on their websites, Cow & Gate and Aptamil said: “Due to the current high demand for formula products, some retailers are experiencing shortages of our products in their stores.

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“Naturally, we are concerned to hear that parents are not able to purchase our products and would like to offer our support.

“At the moment we have good supplies of our formula products and we are sending out regular, daily supplies to all retailers. So you should be able to find your formula products when shelves are replenished, although you may need to shop around (include trying local pharmacies and independent stores as they have lower footfall).”

An eBay spokeswoman said the company “does not tolerate sellers exploiting other users”.

She added: “For several weeks we have had filters in place designed to prevent the listing of items at unreasonably inflated prices and are constantly updating our measures to control listings as the situation evolves.

“We continue to work closely with authorities including Trading Standards, and our international security teams have been working around the clock to remove any unreasonably priced listings.

“Where sellers are attempting to circumvent our filters, we are taking necessary enforcement action.”

An NHS England spokesman declined to offer advice for parents struggling to find baby formula, saying: “Questions about any shortages in supermarkets would be for government.”

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