Soaring milk powder prices

No point in buying expensive milk powder: Josephine Teo

Tins of formula milk powder displayed on shelves at a supermarket.
Tins of formula milk powder displayed on shelves at a supermarket.PHOTO: ST FILE

All products sold here, regardless of price, provide enough nutrition

There is no reason to buy expensive premium milk powder, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo yesterday.

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 the commission's findings.

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

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

 
 

SHE WENT FOR THE CHEAPEST

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.

MINISTER IN THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE JOSEPHINE TEO, who has three children, relating her own experience.

"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.

The authorities have said breast milk is the best. The Health Promotion Board and World Health Organisation encourage mums 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 sold here - even those that cost half the price of premium brands - must meet the safety and nutritional requirements set by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority. Claims by premium brands that 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, said Mrs Teo, who oversees population matters.

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

"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."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline 'No point in buying expensive milk powder: Josephine Teo '. Print Edition | Subscribe