By Jasmine Kazlauskas
A horrified mum said she no longer feels safe shopping at Woolworths after claiming she was ‘violently assaulted’ with a tin of BABY FORMULA.
Mum-of-one Catherine Urriola claims to have encountered ‘chaotic scenes’ involving a frantic mob of shoppers ‘desperately’ grabbing tins of baby formula before it could even be stocked on the shelves at her local Dandenong Woolworths supermarket in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia earlier this month [8 DECEMBER].
The shocked 34-year-old said she ‘couldn’t believe’ what she was seeing and decided to film the mob of ‘around 30 crazed shoppers’ with her phone – but was horrified after she claims one man ‘violently’ pushed her and threw a tin of baby formula in her face.
A spokesperson for Woolworths said the pallet of the baby formula was placed in the middle of the supermarket aisle shortly before closing time so that staff could stock shelves the next day.
Sales representative Catherine said: “I decided to go into Woolworths later one night, it was about 830pm. I just wanted to grab a few things, but I noticed all these shoppers running through the store.
“I didn’t think much of it until I had to go into the aisle where the baby formula usually is. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, there were all these people desperately grabbing tins of formula right out of the boxes on the pallet which was on the ground.
“It had not even been put on the shelves yet. They were being really aggressive to other people, shoving them and pushing them away.
“I saw them running in, getting their two tins and then running out to put them in their trollies. Then they would run back in and grab another two tins, it was just a cycle.
“I thought I’d record it because I didn’t think anyone would believe what I was seeing. I could see they were annoyed, but I didn’t think anything bad would happen to me.
“One lady walked past and put the tin near my face. Then a man walked past and whipped his bag at me before grabbing his tins of formula.
“But when he walked back past me, he actually pushed me and threw the tin in my face. That’s when I got really upset and told him don’t touch me.
“I was shocked. I never thought shoppers would be physically abusive at Woolworths.
“He had no right to touch me. It doesn’t matter what is going on, no one has the right to go up to anyone and touch them in any form.
“I’m never walking back into Woolworths. I don’t feel safe.
“I just don’t know what someone might do to me, or if this could happen again.
“I don’t feel comfortable there anymore. I’ll never go back.”
Catherine claims she told a team member at the store about her alleged assault and showed him the confronting footage.
She claims the team member then found the alleged perpetrator and ‘kicked him out’ of the store – while allegedly also confiscating the two tins baby formula he was going to purchase.
Catherine has not reported the alleged assault to the police.
Demand for foreign baby formula products in China has skyrocketed over the last decade, after locally-produced infant formula left six children dead and made more than 300,000 ill in 2008.
As a result, baby formula is a lucrative market for overseas buyers, with national newspaper reports revealing that one-kilogram tins bought locally for up to AUD$35 [£19] were being resold to overseas consumers for around AUD$100 [£54]
And following a national shortage of infant formula in 2017, Australian supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths introduced a two-tin limit for shoppers in an effort to curb short stock supply.
But earlier this year, both supermarket chains announced that these restrictions were being significantly relaxed to eight tins of baby formula per customer.
However this decision was repealed again in October after Woolworths pledged to reinstate the former 2-tin limit following customer complaints and controversial footage emerged of shoppers stocking up on boxes of formula.
A spokesperson for Woolworths said: “We have a two tin transaction limit on baby formula in place and our store teams work hard to ensure customers have access to stock when they need it.
“The pallet was positioned in the aisle a short time before the store closed, so our team could fill the shelves for the next day’s trade.
“Baby formula stock was readily available for customers at the store the next day.
“We encourage any parents who find their chosen baby formula is unavailable on the shelf to speak with store management, so we can help get them stock as quickly as possible.”