Task force on infant milk formula reviewing labelling rules: Koh Poh Koon

Work expected to be done by year-end, says Koh Poh Koon

The task force set up to address rising prices of infant milk formula is looking at milk formula labelling rules and import regulations. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The task force set up to address rising prices of infant milk formula is looking at milk formula labelling rules and import regulations.

It is expected to complete its work by the end of the year, said Senior Minister of State for National Development, Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon on Sunday (July 2).

Dr Koh, who heads the six-member task force, is a colorectal surgeon by training.

Speaking at a Punggol celebration for young parents, Dr Koh said parents could feed their babies a spoonful of salmon if the child can eat solid foods, instead of expensive formula milk.

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

He said: "Competition only works 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."

Around 80 Punggol residents picked up parenthood tips at the event, which aims to give young parents a chance to interact with experts from the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

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 (2016) onwards can attend the events. The series started its run in April.

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.

All types of formula sold in Singapore, regardless of the brand, provide sufficient nutrition for infants to grow healthily, experts say.

Dr Koh also said 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 with infant formula companies, such as sponsorship deals.

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."

The events will feature a HPB nutritionist, who will share insights and scientific information about early nutrition and development, with the aim of imparting parenting knowledge and advice to young parents.

Several HPB ambassadors were present on Sunday (July 2) to speak to parents, who were given an infant nutrition package with tip sheets on how to better care for their children.

Ms Sun, who described Punggol as the "baby town" of Singapore because it has the most number of young children and babies, said: "The Embracing Parenthood Celebration provides a good platform to engage parents with young children especially when Punggol is a new estate with a high percentage of young families."

One young mother who turned up for the event said she found it difficult to find neutral information about child nutrition.
Programme developer Chloe Zhou, 29, who has a 11-month-old son, said: "There is just too much information out there and not all of it is reliable. And I don't really know how much money to set aside each month for milk powder."

Madam Julia Teoh, 30, a housewife, said she pays about $60 for a tin of infant milk powder. Today, she found out that there were cheaper alternatives.
"It's helpful for healthcare professionals to tell us these things. Most parents tend to buy the most expensive product because they want the best for their growing kids," she said.

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