'Milk is milk, however fancy the marketing', says Josephine Teo

Rows of infant formula milk powder tins at FairPrice Xtra supermarket at NEX.
Rows of infant formula milk powder tins at FairPrice Xtra supermarket at NEX.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - There is no reason to buy expensive premium milk powder, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo on Saturday (May 13).

Her comments on Facebook came after the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) highlighted that the willingness of Singapore parents to pay for premium brands has led to a 120 per cent increase in formula milk prices in the last decade.

Only 5 per cent of Singaporeans who bought milk powder in 2015 opted for standard milk over premium or speciality ones, according to findings from the Competition Commission of Singapore.

Parents also tend to stick with the brand their babies were exposed to in hospitals - which are sponsored by manufacturers.

Mrs Teo, who has three children, said that years ago, she too faced the dilemma of choosing formula milk.

"There were many brands and prices varied quite a bit. But were there significant differences in nutritional value? Did paying more mean helping baby develop better?" she wrote in a post at 11am.

Health authorities have said that breast milk is the best.

Both the Health Promotion Board and World Health Organisation encourage mothers to breastfeed for at least 12 months, Mrs Teo said.

"However, for parents who need to supplement with formula, all brands sold in Singapore, regardless of price, provide enough nutrition for babies to grow healthily," she wrote.

"After the child turns one, milk powder isn't even needed. Fresh cow's milk, as part of a balanced diet, works well enough."

It was earlier reported that all products, even those that cost half the price of premium brands, sold here are required to meet the safety and nutritional requirements set by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

Claims by premium brands that the formula milk can boost mental development and vision are also not backed up.

AVA has said it will tighten regulations on labelling and advertising, and prohibit health claims and idealised images.

Expect more public education and a bigger push for breastfeeding, Mrs Teo, who oversees population matters, said.

She herself bought whichever formula milk that was the cheapest, she said.

"For my own journey, I concluded that milk is milk, however fancy the marketing. As long as AVA approves its import, the milk is good enough. I had no reason to pay more and would buy whatever was cheapest or on sale," she wrote.

"The kids didn't always like adjusting but did so anyway. That's what I found great about kids - they adjust given time and encouragement."