Supermarkets to expect rush on non-perishables as Queenslanders told to stockpile

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 1st May 2009

Queensland residents have been urged to stockpile food in their homes in case swine flu hits Australian shores, despite the Federal Government dismissing the need for such actions.

There are yet to be any confirmed cases of swine flu in Australia and the reported slowdown in the number of suspected deaths* (currently around 168, with all bar one in Mexico) has a number of experts suggesting that the outbreak is not as serious as the media has made out, given 36,000 people die each year from typical flu-related causes in the US alone.

The Federal Government has advised that there is currently no need to stockpile food despite their own pandemic plan recommending the public to stock their pantries with enough food and water to last two weeks when the World Health Organisation’s pandemic threat reaches five – which it did yesterday.

Contrastingly, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer has suggested consumers begin stockpiling food, which might cause a rush on non-perishables at supermarkets across Australia.

“It’s really just sensible advice about being prepared if you are sick and at home and staying in isolation, that you’ve got food there so that you don’t need to go out and shop,” Dr Jeannette Young told ABC Radio. “If we can try and reduce the number of people circulating in the community, then we can reduce the spread of this virus if it comes into Australia.”

She said that there was no need to stockpile water, with tinned food and frozen products the most suitable products to be purchased.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has, however, maintained the Federal Government’s stance against the need for stockpiling, as it would only stimulate unnecessary and unwarranted panic.

“We want people to be aware of the risk of this disease, we want people to be taking sensible planning steps but we don’t want panic,” she said. “It’s very important that we don’t have a rush on products that people just during the course of their ordinary shopping might think about whether they have some of these extra supplies.”

Panic buying across Australia has already seen a number of chemists run out of surgical masks.

* Currently only 8 deaths have been confirmed, seven in Mexico and one in the US, with other test results pending.