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Multi-pronged approach to ensure stable supply of infant milk formula (with video)

     The Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok; the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung; and the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, today (February 1) chaired a joint press conference together with relevant bureaux and departments to announce various measures for combating cross-boundary parallel trading activities. A multi-pronged approach has been adopted to ensure stable supply of infant milk formula.

     To enhance co-operation and law enforcement operations, the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department and Shenzhen Customs, starting from today have further strengthened enforcement efforts against parallel traders. A joint anti-smuggling operation against daily commodities was launched, in particular targeting parallel trading of infant milk formula. The actions include:

* Monitoring parallel trading activities at boundary control points. Shenzhen customs officers will be notified of on-site activities involving infant milk formula. Shenzhen Customs will carry out enforcement action.

* Enhancing intelligence exchange and carrying out joint investigations. By targeting the sources of supply, distribution, transportation and storage and distribution of products on the Mainland, etc, the supply chain of the infant milk formula parallel trade will be interrupted.

* Enhancing checks on travellers at boundary control points. With immediate effect, Shenzhen Customs will strengthen inspections of daily commodities, especially infant milk formula. Inspections will be conducted at all boundary control points on all passengers who are, or are suspected to be, carrying infant milk formula.

* Implementing a passenger arrival monitoring system. Shenzhen Customs has implemented an information management system to keep track of passengers' arrival records on a single day and within a short period of time so as to support Shenzhen Customs' strict control on passengers bringing in self-used commodities, especially infant milk formula.

     On immigration control, the Immigration Department has developed a "watch list of suspected parallel traders" gathered through different sources, including information on persons arrested or convicted, intelligence and analysis of immigration data, etc. Those on the watch list will be refused entry and removed to the Mainland if their purpose of visit is in doubt.

     Due to the problem of a supply chain failure in the market, the Government has decided to set up the following special hotline service as a short-term measure to ensure that parents of local infants and young children are able to secure the purchase of infant milk formula:

* Apart from the existing hotline services provided by infant milk formula suppliers, a 24-hour special hotline at 3142 2288 has been set up by the Government with effect from today. The hotline came into operation at 6pm today and is operated by staff of the Efficiency Unit.

* Local parents of infants and young children under 3 years of age who are unable to purchase the seven major brands of infant milk formula (Abbott, Cow & Gate, Mead Johnson, Friso, Nestlˆm, Wyeth and Snow Brand) at the retail level or through the suppliers' hotlines may dial up this hotline for referrals of purchase orders to the relevant suppliers.

* The seven major infant milk formula suppliers have pledged that, to address the concern of parents, deliveries will be made before the Chinese New Year for all the purchase orders placed today, tomorrow and on Sunday (February 1 to 3) via the special hotline.

     The Government spokesman said, "The special hotline set up by the Government serves as a safety net to provide assistance to local parents who are unable to obtain infant milk formula due to various reasons. Their order requests will be referred to relevant suppliers for meeting their babies' needs and easing their worries."

     To combat the moves of "couriers" to transport large quantities of infant milk formula away from the supply chain in Hong Kong, the Government will introduce legislative amendments to control the export of infant milk formula out of Hong Kong. It is believed that such a move can effectively stabilise the infant milk formula supply to local consumers. The measures include the following:

* The Government will amend the Import and Export (General) Regulations (Cap. 60 A) to impose export control on infant milk formula except under and in accordance with an export licence issued by the relevant authority.

* The Government will consult the trade in the short term and formulate details with a view to submitting the proposed legislative amendments to the Executive Council in February for implementation as soon as possible.

* Having regard to the need of those departing from Hong Kong for infant milk formula for their own consumption, the preliminary proposal by the Government is that not more than a net weight of 1.8 kilograms of infant milk formula may be carried by each person, excluding children. Calculated on the basis of a net weight of 0.9kg for one can of infant milk formula, each person may carry two cans.

     Meanwhile, the Mass Transit Railway Corporation Limited (MTRCL) will impose more weight limit restrictions on passenger luggage along the East Rail Line to tie in with the Government's further efforts in combating parallel trading activities. The new measures are as follows:

* Starting next Monday (February 4), the weight limit for passenger luggage will be further lowered from the existing 32kg to 23kg for the East Rail Line. The measure will be implemented on a trial basis for three months. The Government and the MTRCL share the view that restrictions on passenger luggage should be dealt with prudently. While more stringent controls can help reduce nuisance to passengers, they should not cause much inconvenience to general passengers.

* Starting next Monday, weight checks for passenger luggage will also be conducted at the Tai Po Market and Fo Tan stations. Currently, ground scales are installed at Sheung Shui, Fanling, Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau stations.

* Manpower of the By-laws Inspection Unit (BIU) will be further increased. The number of BIU members will be increased by half from the existing 39 to 59.

     The spokesman said he hoped that the measures could effectively combat cross-boundary parallel trading of infant milk formula and ease local parents' worries about not being able to buy infant milk formula in the local market.

Ends/Friday, February 1, 2013
Issued at HKT 21:07


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