Task force on infant milk formula reviewing labelling and import rules

A nutritionist from the Health Promotion Board, Ms Jolyn Wong, 36, giving a talk at the Embracing Parenthood event held at Punggol Seas RC yesterday.
A nutritionist from the Health Promotion Board, Ms Jolyn Wong, 36, giving a talk at the Embracing Parenthood event held at Punggol Seas RC yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

The task force set up to address the rising prices of infant milk formula is looking at rules governing the labelling of milk formula as well as import regulations.

It is expected to complete its work by the end of the year, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon yesterday. Dr Koh, who is also Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, heads the six-member task force. He was speaking at an event in Punggol where about 80 young parents got to interact with experts from the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and pick up parenting tips.

At the event, Dr Koh gave a tip as well, advising parents they can feed their children a spoonful of salmon if they can eat solid food instead of just formula milk.

One-and-a-half tablespoons of salmon can provide as much DHA or docosahexaenoic acid as 30 bottles of milk, he said, even though top-tier milk brands highlight the DHA content in the milk powder.

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"Competition works only if parents can make the right choices, but if parents keep on buying the most expensive brands, milk companies will keep on raising prices because they have a stranglehold on you," he said.

The Embracing Parenthood Movement Celebrations - organised by the People's Association - will be held regularly until 2020.

Parents with Singaporean babies born from last year onwards can attend the events. The series started its run in April.

Dr Koh Poh Koon told parents that they can feed their children a spoonful of salmon if they can eat solid food instead of just formula milk. One-and-a-half tablespoons of salmon can provide as much DHA or docosahexaenoic acid as 30 bottles of milk, he said, even though top-tier milk brands highlight the DHA content in the milk powder.

Yesterday marked the first time child development experts were roped in to address questions on infant milk formula.

The high prices of infant milk powder made headlines earlier this year.

Experts have said that all types of formula sold in Singapore, regardless of the brand, provide sufficient nutrition for infants to grow healthily.

Dr Koh also said that Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who is a member of the task force, is engaging hospitals to ensure there is no conflict of interest, such as sponsorship deals, with infant formula companies.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Sun Xue Ling, who was at the event, said: "Through the celebration, we can help address some of the concerns of parents relating to childhood nutrition, such as infant formula milk, as well as the children's health and development."

A HPB nutritionist at the event shared insights and scientific information about early nutrition and development, as part of efforts to impart parenting knowledge and advice to young parents.

Several HPB ambassadors spoke to parents, who were given an infant nutrition package with tip sheets on how to better care for their children.

Programme developer Chloe Zhou, 29, who has an 11-month-old son, said: "There is just too much information out there and not all of it is reliable."

Madam Julia Teoh, 30, a housewife who said she pays about $60 for a tin of infant milk powder, found out yesterday that there were cheaper alternatives.

"Most parents tend to buy the most expensive product because they want the best for their growing kids," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2017, with the headline 'Task force on infant milk formula reviewing labelling and import rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe