Black Markets

Baby Formula Ranks as Top Smuggling Demand in Hong Kong


We'll stick with rum, thanks

Remember that scandal years ago when hundreds of thousands of babies got sick from Chinese-made formula and six died? The people of China and Hong Kong sure do. It's creating a black market for imported baby formula big enough to displace the typical drug trade.

Business Web site Quartz reports:

In almost two months, authorities have arrested more people for smuggling milk powder than for trafficking drugs in all of last year. Officials seized 8,841 kilograms of formula and arrested 879 people between March 1, when Hong Kong started limiting outbound travelers to two cans of formula each, and April 23. Almost half of that came from a syndicate that was hoarding about HK$1.1 million ($141,700) worth of milk powder.

By comparison, in 2012, Hong Kong arrested only 430 people for smuggling "dangerous drugs" worth HK$1 million, according to government data. (The most trafficked drugs in Hong Kong are ketamine, heroine, and cocaine.) However, the jump in milk formula smuggling also coincides with a fall in the amount of drugs being seized, presumably because there is less flowing through Hong Kong. The former British colony has been making a concerted effort to crack down on the narcotics trade. In 2011, Hong Kong was taken off the US list (paywall) of major drug transit centers.

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