Key Points:

Chinese sailors in port in Auckland yesterday were stocking up on baby formula - grateful they could buy safe product as their Government deals with the San Lu scandal.

The company, which is part-owned by Fonterra, has been mired in controversy after melamine was found in its formula. Four babies have died and the tainted milk has made 54,000 ill.

Sailors on the marine science research vessel Da Yang Yi Hao said brands such as Karicare were cheaper in New Zealand, but trust was also a reason for buying here.

Fonterra's association with the company hadn't put Chinese consumers off New Zealand products.

"It's very popular in China. It's very good, and it's safe," said one sailor who did not want to be named.

"New Zealand is very famous for its dairy products, its good quality. People are buying powder as gifts for their friends."

Consumers were still angry at San Lu's actions, he said.

"It's just a small part of the Chinese community who have profited. Chinese people demand changes."

Quay Street Foodtown spokesman Ian Zhu said many sailors were buying at least a case of six 900ml cans at a cost of over $100.

While it was hard to say how much formula was bought, daily deliveries had been snapped up - and not just by sailors. Chinese New Zealanders had been buying and posting milk products home since the controversy.

"For Chinese, the one child/one family [policy] means that if they get problems they will spend as much as they can."