The great lengths to which infant formula milk manufacturers go to boost their sales were apparent in a report last week by Singapore's competition watchdog. It showed that some private hospitals have been profiting from sponsorships and payments so certain brands of milk fed to infants in hospitals can gain currency among parents. This is not proper as "aggressive marketing" by incumbent manufacturers, together with consumer biases, can limit competition from new and existing brands, observed the report.
Thankfully, action is also being taken to regulate nutritional and health claims made by manufacturers. Claims can border ambiguously on the extravagant, if not the misleading. A case in point is the "Gain IQ" tag used for a popular brand of milk powder. The selling point translates into "intestinal quality", if one looks closely at the label. But many parents might get carried away by the notion that the product boosts the intelligence quotient. That impression would be reinforced by the eye-catching image of a bear wearing a graduation cap - an achievement that presumably does not depend on intestinal quality.
Businesses have to compete for market share, of course, but instead of resorting to such advertising, ethical commercial practices should be adopted. There is cause for concern when parents are induced to make choices that collectively drive up prices. Parents feel the pinch as the average price of a tin of infant milk powder has risen by about 120 per cent over the past decade.
Consumers can play a part by making informed choices and not succumbing to excessive pitches. Ultimately, mother's milk is best for the child, and cow's milk is good enough for older children, so long as it forms a part of a balanced diet. Seeking pricey products for their offspring might gratify indulgent parents but these are not necessarily the best for their children's well-being.
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