Are Australian babies more important than Chinese babies?

Chinese parents also want the best for their babies.

I’m going to say this really quick and then get the hell out and duck for cover. Chinese babies are people too.

Watching the fall out over the Chinese buy-up of baby formula, I keep wondering why Australian babies are so much more important than Chinese babies.

For every parent who is angry that their baby formula is being bought out of Aussie stores and sold overseas, I want to remind them that there are literally thousands more in China buying our products because their children were poisoned by corrupted milk.

The formula shortage crisis has led to calls for limits on purchases. Image via Seven News.

In 2008, 54,000 babies were hospitalised in China because formula was found to contain a chemical called melamine which is a building block for cyanide.

Six infants died and 300,000 children overall were reported to have been affected. The scare exposed major gaps in food safety regulation and showed up the extent of political corruption in China.

Four years earlier, a watered down milk had also resulted in the death of 13 children from malnutrition.

Watch The Project’s segment on ‘Formula Wars’ here. Post continues below. 

Overseas, a lot of people stopped buying Chinese food. Some countries stopped importing them altogether. That’s how important we, in other countries, thought it was NOT to have Chinese food products in our diet.

Back here in Australia we are lucky. We do have food regulation. Strict rules. And a government that won’t just ignore those rules if it means making money.


Yes, the Chinese formula scare was years ago. And yes, many Australian products are already sold direct to the Chinese market. But if you are a mum or a dad in China you’d be forgiven for having a long memory and for not having a lot of faith in products sold in your country.

Aussie mums have called for further restrictions and limitations to be placed on formula purchases. Image via iStock.

I get why Aussie mums are upset. I would be too if my baby had intolerances or reflux and could not cope with a different brand of formula.

Mamamia’s Editor-in-Chief explains the baby formula debate on Mamamia Outloud:

I would also be upset if my child was used to that brand and spent days rejecting one brand of formula before I could get them to take another.

But I would also try to remember that Chinese mothers and fathers also love their babies and want the best for them. They certainly want to be sure the food they provide them won’t lead to illness or death.

Maybe we need to be a bit more tolerant about why people are buying up formula to on-sell. Yes, middlemen are absolutely chasing a profit…. but only because to many Chinese parents there is a real and important need.