‘Mothers who can't afford to feed infants resort to theft’

Childline says the criminal justice system should deal with such moms with a degree of compassion.

An example of how supermarkets try and reduce shoplifting of baby formula. This image was taken at a Game outlet in 2013. Picture: Bruce Hong/ Cape Talk.

JOHANNESBURG - Child welfare groups say while syndicates may well be responsible for the ongoing theft of baby milk formula in Johannesburg, it's also possible that some mothers who can't afford to feed their infants are resorting to theft.

The issue was highlighted earlier this week in a Facebook post about a store in Melville that had locked up its baby formula, sparking widespread debate.

Eyewitness News spoke to 15 store managers from Pick n Pay, Spar and Shoprite outlets across the city, who all said they've had to beef up security, and are adamant that milk formula theft syndicates are at work.

Childline's Lynne Cawood has called for the criminal justice system to deal with these moms with a degree of compassion.

"Don't arrest them, but give them an order to appear in court the following day."

Johannesburg Child Welfare says there are various NGOs which can assist with problems relating to child feeding.

The group's Lowina Fourie says they cannot function without the support of government.

"The Department of Social Development and Department of Health and NGOs… we have to pull together."

The Department of Social Development says grants are not meant to cover a family's entire cost of living.