It's a measure of parental desperation - bottles of Gripe Water, priced at £2.49, are changing hands on ebay for as much as £9.99.
The manufacturers have confirmed today - according to the Mail - that production stopped 4 months ago, leading to previously unexplained shortages in shops. According to a (surprisingly vague) spokesman:
‘I understand we stopped producing it last year because of some kind of licensing issues but we hope to start selling the product again in a few months.
I haven’t been able to get to the bottom of what the licensing issues are but it may have something to do with the wording on the packaging.’
For anyone unfamiliar with the product, it contains dill extract and sodium hydrogen carbonate and, in my experience at least, is about the most effective of the over-the-counter remedies for babies with colic.
It's been in use for generations; I was, by all accounts, particularly fond of it as a baby, back in the days when it also contained sugar and alcohol - although the formula has been altered since then to satisfy modern sensibilities (giving rise to an inspired Giles cartoon).
Since the offspring graduated to solid food nearly two decades ago, it's not something I've had occasion to buy since - although I must admit to the odd swig from the bottle left in the medicine cabinet in the years afterwards in an optimistic bid to combat indigestion.
I do however, sympathise with the parents - and retailers - who feel they have been kept in the dark. As a matter of fact, I have recently found it nearly impossible to find a particular combination painkiller I take for migraines - the shop staff cannot tell me why it is no longer stocked (though one chemist will still order it in specially - so far).
To add to the puzzle, a French pharmacist recently told me, in answer to an agonized plea, that the same tablets could no longer be sold over the counter in France - "C'est la loi, Madame". (Migraines being what they are, I'm afraid I proceeded to make an involuntary protest against 'the law' by being violently sick in the municipal flower-bed outside.)
So why the interruption of supply? Internecine strife in the ranks of Big Pharma, perhaps? Or is it something to do with the EU? Has the mighty armament of Brussels now turned its sights on infants with tummy-ache and middle-aged women with migraines?
I wish they'd tell us!
Franceska Mann, R.I.P.
29 minutes ago