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First Toilet Paper Now Baby Formula As Hoarders Ignore Rules At Supermarkets

Images have emerged of groups of shoppers appearing to stockpile baby formula from Sydney supermarkets, despite limits placed on products to avoid hoarding.

One video showed a woman with several trolleys full of baby formula at a Coles in Sydney's south, despite the four-tin limit.

The supermarket giant told 10 daily the case took place "very recently" despite a four-can limit in place across Coles stores.

The video was shared on Facebook on Friday, but the original post has been deleted.

"Can you please explain to me how people .... are still able to get around your store policy and buy your whole supply of baby formula in one hour," Natalie, the woman who posted the video, wrote in the now-deleted Facebook post.

She said she arrived at the store in Westfield Hurstville around 9 pm, where she spotted a group of four going in and out of the store with tins of formula.

"They would line up at the counter, which it is kept behind to prevent people from overbuying, purchase the four maximum per transaction, put it in their trolley literally just outside the register (not even outside the store) and then walk back through the isle and line up again," she wrote.

Natalie, who said she worked in childcare, claimed staff did not attempt to stop the group, saying it was "extremely disappointing".

“The reason I took the video is because I see childcare centres struggling and sharing formula as well as toilet paper and gloves so they can provide care for babies and children,” she told 10 daily.

“This is essential food, it’s life, it’s much more serious that toilet paper."

Natalie also believes staff can’t really police a policy that says “four per transaction” rather than “four per customer”.

“I don’t blame the staff, it was late on a Friday and they are busy doing their job. The supermarkets can make their policy stricter and clearer by saying just four per customer, that way they can’t just keep going back in and out to buy four more each time.”

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China's booming demand for Australian baby formula is "good for our country", the industry said, as manufacturers push back against constant media coverage alleging that foreigners are gobbling up local supplies.

In a statement, Coles said it is committed to ensuring its customers have access to infant formula and said it was "extremely disappointing" when product limits are ignored.

"And as a result we are limiting sales quantities to four units per customer. Where formula is unavailable, we encourage customers to speak with their local store manager.”

The supermarket did not comment on strategies to police people who walk back in and buy another four units.

In another reported incident, a local contacted 10 daily after witnessing a group of around 10 shoppers working together to bulk buy formula at a Woolworths in Sydney's Macquarie Shopping Centre.

The woman claimed she followed the group for about 20 minutes doing "continuous loops" through the store and said the trolley used by the group was "filled to the brim by the time they left".

Image: Supplied.

“The issues pertaining to professional shoppers aren’t new, but in this altered social and political climate, it would be great to see some change”, the woman told 10 daily.

10 daily contacted Woolworths who said they weren't aware of any incident at the store. A spokesperson said Woolworths encourages all customers to talk to the store teams if they need assistance.

It comes as supermarkets across the country continue to crack down on panic buying.

Along with existing restrictions on the purchase of certain foods and household items, stores have also put in place a number of measures to increase social-distancing, including cashless payment and more signage and enforcement of the 1.5 metre distancing rule.

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Woolworths has introduced a number of measures in store to adhere to social distancing measures put in place by the government in response to coronavirus.

Authorities have also repeatedly pleaded with the public to stop panic buying and respect social distancing restrictions around the community.

Last month, the Prime Minister also addressed the issue of hoarding, telling people to simply "stop it."

"I can't be more blunt about it," Morrison said at the time.

"It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis."

On Saturday, Coles and Woolworths also announced they would be introducing limits to the number of customers inside some of their stores at any one time, ahead of the Easter rush.

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Woolworths and Coles have announced they will start limiting the number of customers inside some of their stores from next week.

Limits will differ between stores based on size and location.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au