As fears of radiation-contaminated Japanese foods spread in Asia, Hong Kong parents have packed stores to get their hands on what they believe could be the last untainted supply of a highly sought-after product: Japanese milk powder. Even before the earthquake in Japan, the nation’s milk powder has been a contentious subject—and a hot commodity—in Hong Kong. Mothers from mainland China have been coming to Hong Kong for the product for years, as prices are slightly lower across the border, and because the melamine scandal in 2008 has eroded consumers’ confidence in dairy goods sold in China.
The queue in front of the East Trading West shop Tuesday included parents, grandparents, domestic helpers—and, of course, babies. Some people came prepared with plastic stools; others simply sat on newspaper. Police tape cordoned off the line.
Local supermarket chain Wellcome this month said it found that staff members in its Sheung Shui branch, near the border with the mainland, violated company rules by selling more than the limit of three cans of formula per customer. A district councilor has since referred the case to Hong Kong’s antigraft agency, the Independent Commission Against Corruption. A spokesperson for Wellcome said the company has
since “strengthened its internal communications” to make sure the rule is properly enforced. The ICAC declined to comment.