Jade needed to drive an hour and a half to buy formula for her baby. She's not the only mum in crisis.

Hannah Goldand had almost completely run out of formula for her six-month-old son Archer on Thursday.

The little boy has a serious milk allergy, and his mum has a prescription to purchase the only three branded tins of infant formula that do not trigger a reaction, at a discounted rate, The Age reports.

But the mum told The Age that for months she had struggled to get more than one tin at a time.

And she’s not alone. Australia is facing an infant formula shortage as supplies are bought out by shoppers who sell the formula to parents in China. Parents, who after a deadly contamination incident in 2008, do not trust the formula produced in their own country.

This shortage, which for several years has been managed with limits on tins purchased, has recently hit the prescription formula market particularly hard.

A pharmacy shelf in November 2015 in Sydney. The photo was taken after the Federal Government announced it was trying to address the growing shortage of baby formula. Image: Getty.

So much so that another mum from regional Victoria was forced to drive an hour and a half to Melbourne to purchase the formula her son needed after running out the night before. After posting on a Facebook page, Jade Smith managed to get enough formula from another woman to feed her six-month-old that night before making the trip.

Hannah, meanwhile, told the The Age health reporter Aisha Dow she had to call and get two emergency tins from Nestle, who manufacture the formula Alfamino, sent to a nearby pharmacy that night. Otherwise, she says she would have needed to take her son to hospital.

"It is quite a scary thought. The government need to do something," she said.

The formulas Hannah and Jade need for their sons retail for around $20 a tin, but can be found on Chinese shopping websites for $40 or even $70. There, they are being purchased by desperate mums who equally just want to feed their baby something that won't make them sick.

But Chinese shoppers, who are known as Daigou, are not unaware of the harm being caused by the practice and they want to do something about it.


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Dr Matthew McDougall, an expert on China relations, has set up the Australia China Daigou Association that he says has the support of the Federal Government.

The association's goals are formally recognising the business the Daigou operate, develop a code of practice and connect Daigou with Australian businesses - so they can purchase directly from the businesses and not from pharmacy and supermarket shelves.

"Daigou fundamentally understand they can’t continue to source baby formula from shelves en masse but their options are limited," Dr McDougall said.

"As an association, we need to create opportunities for manufacturers to work directly with the Daigou community and improve the way Daigou shoppers go about purchasing and shipping items to their buyers back in mainland China."

Nestle said the unexpected surge in demand for their products fuelled in part by sales from people reselling to outside Australia. They told Fairfax they had set up a management scheme to ensure the products were distributed better.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said parents should speak to the doctor who prescribed their formula, as there were alternatives to the three off-the-shelf prescription formula tins available.