A shortage of a main ingredient in baby formula has caused panic buying on eBay, as mothers have had to look to alternative sources to purchase milk for their newborns. The problem is due to a shortage of a crucial ingredient – maize starch, also known as cornstarch or cornflour, which is used to thicken the milk. Two companies been let down by their suppliers of maize starch, these are Cow & Gate and Aptamil, both owned by French manufacturer Danone, and they say that as this is a pre-approved supplier, they won’t use anyone else.
But mothers who use these brands of formula milk are now having to pay up to four times the recommended retail price, as stores have run out of stock, and parents are now looking to auction sites such as eBay to purchase the same formula milk that their babies are used to drinking.
This has prompted a bidding war on eBay, as some parents are desperate to get their hands on a particular brand, worried that their babies will not tolerate a different taste or consistency. And mums are furious about the shortage, which they say they were not warned about in advance.
One mother, Catherine Russell, from Cheshire, said that she had resorted to feeding her 11-month-old daughter Hattie with a replacement formula when she had fallen asleep. The 31-year-old mother of three said: “This is an absolute nightmare. Parents had no warning that there was a problem.” Mrs Russell said: “My daughter has a slight lactose intolerance, which means I can’t put her on other types of formula. I tried alternative products and brands, but she just refuses to drink milk now. I have had to take to feeding her while she is asleep, because that is the only way she will take it. I feel very let down by the company. You can’t bring out these products only for them to suddenly disappear off the shelves, especially when you are dealing with the health of new born babies.”
Some parents are so desperate to get hold of the same brand that their babies are used to drinking, that they are paying well in excess of what the formula is usually priced at. A typical 900g tub of Aptamil Comfort Milk is generally sold for around £12.99, but today, the same tubs were being sold for £28 each, and the bidding still had four hours to go.
Another tub of 900g Cow & Gate Comfort formula milk was being offered at a staggering buy it now for £75. This tub would normally cost the customer around £11.30 each.
A statement from Danone suggests that the shortage might last until next week. A spokesman said: ‘We very much regret that we are currently experiencing a shortage of these two milks which means parents are experiencing low and patchy availability. We would like to apologise to parents who are using these milks as we are very aware of difficulties they are experiencing. Unfortunately we have experienced a production delay due to the shortage of one key ingredient.
‘Our careline operates 24/7 and as a priority we are helping parents to locate retailers who have these milks in stock. We recommend parents contact their health care professional if they need further advice.’
Danone spokesperson Helen Messenger said the company had been ‘let down’ by its maize starch supplier.
She said: ‘We only use pre-approved suppliers, we don’t buy our ingredients from the open market because babies have to have the best quality standards.
‘Unfortunately on this occasion we were let down by our supplier, however, we have pulled all the stops out and we have made more of that formula and it will be coming back on to shelves next week.’
Here are the numbers you need to contact Danone:
Aptamil Switchboard: 01225 768 381
Cow & Gate Switchboard: 01225 711 511