Increased production of goat milk in Australia could prop up a stressed baby formula industry, despite cow milk being the preferred option, an expert has said.
Cow milk infant formula was in high demand late in 2015, when reports of a shortage saw thousands of frenzied parents sweep tins of the product from store shelves around the country.
New Zealand entrepreneur Ben Dingle is currently in the process of setting up Australia’s largest dairy goat farm, with plans to supply the Australian and Chinese markets to fill exceedingly high demand.
Goat milk formula was a viable alternative to cow milk powder, nutrition specialist Melanie McGrice told The New Daily, as it was richer in protein, had a higher level of calcium and omega 3 fatty acids and was lower in lactose.
“It is certainly an option as long as the formula meets FSANZ [Food Standards Australia New Zealand],” she said.
In November, major infant formula producers Bellamy’s and Danone Nutricia announced production increases in response to “unprecedented” demand, with some brands being pumped out at four times the usual rate.
The New Daily understands demand for infant formula has remained high, although two producers contacted for comment, Bellamy’s and a2 Nutrition, did not provide comment on the current situation.
Many parents blamed demand from China for the shortage, after it emerged tins of the product were being illegally shipped to the Asian nation for re-sale.
Tins that would usually retail for between $20 to $30 in Australia could fetch more than $100 overseas.
Some Chinese expats were reportedly making six-figure salaries selling Australian-made health products, including infant formula, often shipping them into the country in boxes under 5kg labelled as gifts or personal use to avoid import taxes.
Western Sydney University School of Nursing and Midwifery adjunct associate professor Karleen Gribble said the shortage was overstated and said while it is an alternative, goat milk formula should not be the first choice for parents.
“There never actually has been a shortage of infant formula in Australia, it has only ever been … premium brands that are in short supply,” she told The New Daily.
“Australian products there are marketed as clean and green and healthy, that is how they are managing to sell them for $100 over there.”
Parents conned into spending
Clever marketing was leading parents to unnecessarily spend hundreds of extra dollars a year.
All formula must meet FSANZ standards, but there was a huge difference in price across brands.
“One brand of infant formula might only cost $13 a tin, a different brand that is essentially the same product might cost $20 more than that,” Assoc Prof Gribble said.
“Rampant marketing” had resulted in changes to infant feeding processes, particularly in China, where bottle-feeding had become prolific and confidence in the industry remained low, following a fatal melamine scandal in 2008.
The deaths of six infants and hospitalisation of about 54,000 others were linked to addition of the compound to Chinese-made formula. About 300,000 babies were estimated to have been affected.