Parents need education on formula milk

Parents need to understand the risks present in consuming formula milk before they focus on price and quality of ingredients. The Ministry of Health has to play a bigger role in educating parents on this.
Parents need to understand the risks present in consuming formula milk before they focus on price and quality of ingredients. The Ministry of Health has to play a bigger role in educating parents on this.ST FILE PHOTO

It is heartening to note that the authorities and Competition Commission of Singapore are taking steps to curtail the price of formula milk, as well as to clamp down on false or unclear marketing tactics employed by formula milk companies (Call to end formula milk firms' aggressive tactics, and Nutrition claims, 'idealised' images on milk tins must go; both published on May 11).

However, I wonder if much more needs to be done.

It is clear that there is a disturbing and widespread lack of information on formula milk, especially on the dangers it poses to newborns.

Research has shown real and significant risks for infants fed on formula milk rather than breast milk, with health implications ranging from obesity to gastroenteritis.

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There are also risks on infectious morbidity and intellectual development.

We need to present consumers with the full picture before we focus on price and quality of ingredients.

Understanding both the benefits of breastfeeding and the inherent risks present in any formula milk constituent will give consumers a fully-informed view.

When consumers know what they are buying and are aware of the risks involved, formula milk prices will no longer be justified through the publication of half-truths or misleading information.

To this end, the Ministry of Health and other watchdog associations can play a bigger role in educating the public and highlighting the consumption risks of formula milk.

They cannot leave it to advertisers and formula milk companies, which have vested interests, to be the key sources of information.

When consumers know what they are buying and are aware of the risks involved, formula milk prices will no longer be justified through the publication of half-truths or misleading information.

Lim Huiwen (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2017, with the headline 'Parents need education on formula milk'. Print Edition | Subscribe