All brands of formula milk sold in S'pore, regardless of price, "provide enough nutrition for babies to grow healthily"
Expect more public education on formula milk & a bigger push for breastfeeding following the release of findings from the Competition Commission of S'pore (CCS) into the supply of formula milk here, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo said on Sat (May 13).
In a FaceBook post, she noted that CCS found that formula milk companies invested heavily in aggressive marketing & advertising activities which strengthen parents’ perceptions that “more expensive means better”.
Authorities announced earlier this week that formula milk manufacturers will not be able to use nutrition & health claims, as well as images that make drinking formula milk look attractive, once changes to Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) regulations take effect. AVA will also also streamline its import regulations in order to facilitate the entry of more suppliers & brands of formula milk, & the changes are expected to be finalised by end of 2017.
Josephine Teo in Singapore 23 hrs
Years ago when my kids started to drink formula milk, my husband and I stressed over which milk powder to get. 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?
The inquiry by Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) into the supply of formula milk in Singapore found that formula milk companies invest heavily in aggressive marketing and advertising activities which strengthen parents’ perceptions that “more expensive means better”. This enabled formula milk companies to charge higher prices. Find out more about CCS’s findings here: bit.ly/2qzPrJK
Actually, breastmilk is best and both the Health Promotion Board, Singapore and World Health Organization (WHO) encourage mothers to breastfeed for at least 12 months. 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. After the child turns one, milk powder isn't even needed. Fresh cow's milk, as part of a balanced diet, works well enough.
No point in buying expensive milk powder: Josephine Teo
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 & 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 & encouragement."
Channel NewsAsia 22 hrs
"I had no reason to pay more and would buy whatever was cheapest or on sale," Minister Josephine Teo on her own experience with formula milk.
Josephine Teo’s comment, “milk is milk, however fancy the marketing” irks parents
Ms Teo shared that she and her husband stressed over which milk powder to get years ago when her kids started to drink formula milk as there were many brands and varying prices. "But were there significant differences in nutritional value? Did paying more mean helping baby develop better?" were some of the questions that she had.
Ms Teo noted in her post that breastmilk is best and highlighted that both the Health Promotion Board, Singapore and World Health Organization (WHO) encourage mothers to breastfeed for at least 12 months. At the same time, she also reassured parents who need to supplement their child with formula milk that all brands sold in Singapore, regardless of price, provide enough nutrition for babies to grow healthily. Noting that the child need not rely on milk powder after turning one year old. "Fresh cow's milk, as part of a balanced diet, works well enough."
She shared on her personal experience, "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. 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"
Josephine Teo Attacked by Angry Parents Following “Insensitive” Milk Formula Comments
The price of infant milk formula has made headlines after charting of price trends showed that costs increased by 120 percent over the past 10 years.
The Competition Commission of Singapore has revealed that marketing costs, which rose 42 percent during this time, made up a bulk of the increase in costs on the part of formula firms.
An industry insider has revealed that much of this “marketing costs” goes towards bribing doctors at private hospitals and clinics with expensive gifts such as all expenses paid holidays to Europe and the US, sponsored golf trips and even branded handbags.
Infant Formula Scandal
Has Health Ministry’s Lax Governance Contributed to Sky-High Milk Formula Prices?
MINISTER DOES NOT UNDERSTAND MILK POWDER ISSUE
The responsibility of the government is not trying to psycho citizens to consume cheaper milk powder. The government responsibility is to prevent companies from making too much profit from basic necessities such as milk powder! Has the PAP achieved that? Now already so expensive, we have been suffering so long, until now then you come and say something? I think you have failed Singaporeans.
Minister Teo is also out of touch when she say just buy the cheapest milk powder. Does she know that so many parents go thru so many brands of milk powder just to find the right one for their child? Some kids are just more sensitive and they shit non stop or vomit if given the wrong formula, so when parents find the right brand, even if expensive, they would just endure and buy. Other kids have existing medical conditions and no choice can't switch brands.
And while Singaporean parents are struggling with high milk powder prices, they let the milk powder companies sponsor hospitals for their course fees and materials for staff, and hospital dinner and dance functions, so that their formula can stay longer on the hospital list. Is the Ministry of Health doing their job? How can they let this happen? All these sponsorship money would only later be passed onto consumers!
Parents explain why they are crying foul over what the govt’s saying about formula milk prices
So here are some things we hope the government can consider in their plans regarding this:
- The issue of the prices of formula milk isn’t as straightforward as choosing the cheapest brand. The fact is it’s not that simple, and shouldn’t be simplified, because you’re being insensitive and dismissive in doing so.
- Breastfeeding is a very sensitive and tricky issue, as evidenced by the recent tragedy of a young mother who committed suicide with her two-month-old infant after feeling too much pressure. So sensitivity is key here, in any campaigning or public communication planned, even more so than in dealing with infant formula prices.
- If you’re going to advocate breastfeeding, please make sure the places where young moms work (and the people they work for) are as accommodating and conducive to and for this as well.
Minister Josephine Teo: Milk is milk, just buy whatever cheapest on sale
Minister of State Josephine Teo dismissed Singaporeans’ complaints over rising milk powder pricing and said that she would just buy “whatever cheapest on sale”:
“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.”
The PAP Minister quoted the recent report by government agency, Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS), claiming that marketing is the reason behind soaring milk powder prices. However the CCS was unable to gather evidence of price fixing or explain why milk powder of the same type in Singapore cost more than twice the price overseas. Milk powder prices inflated 150% between 2010 and 2014, but there has been no explanation from the CCS or the government.
Expensive formula milk: by choice or no choice?
The main factors behind the price hike, says the CCS, are the heavy investment in marketing and research and development (R&D) by manufacturers to build a premium brand image
Manufacturers continually add new ingredients to formula milk and claim that they enhance desired attributes in infants, such as mental development. Parents buy into this tactic despite the Ministry of Health (MOH), Health Promotion Board (HPB), and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) stating that these nutritional claims have weak scientific evidence.
Aggressive marketing tactics in the form of advertising and sponsorships with private hospitals accompany this R&D. Nutritional claims and aspirational outcomes plastered on tins of formula milk sway parents into buying formula milk that is positioned as “premium”. Manufacturers provide sponsorships to private hospitals to ensure that their brands stay as the default formula for a longer time under the milk rotation programme, which provides first-mover advantage as parents usually stick to the formula milk that was given to their baby at hospitals.
However, some private hospitals have taken a different approach by signing up for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). BFHI-certified hospitals must implement practices that promote and protect breastfeeding. Currently there are no BFHI private hospitals but Mount Alvernia Hospital, Raffles Hospital and Thomson Medical Centre say they are working towards achieving the certification.
Parents should vote with their wallets to curb formula milk prices, say experts
Cheaper options available on supermarket shelves have little difference in nutritional properties, according to the authorities. Formula is not needed past the age of 12 months, but many of the products are for children aged above one. FOTO: STOCKPHOTO
95% Percentage of formula milk sales in 2015 that comprised "premium" & speciality milk. Standard milk sales made up the other 5%, and such formula typically costs less than half the price of "premium".
The best way to put the brakes on infant milk formula price hikes is for parents to vote with their wallets, economists & pricing experts say.
Its average price has more than doubled over the last decade, leading the Government to announce measures to address the issue last week amid public unhappiness. But a report by the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) found no evidence of anti-competitive practices by the 6 major manufacturers dominating the market here.
The booming formula milk industry is taking a toll on parents
AVA has responded to CCS’ recommendations by broadly implementing three measures: adjusting regulations on advertising and import of formula milk, strengthening public education efforts, and encouraging hospitals to provide stronger support for breastfeeding.
The first measure involves the Sale of Infant Foods Ethics Committee, Singapore (SIFECS) extending its coverage of Code of Ethics to infants up to 12 months of age instead of six months. The code currently restricts advertising of formula milk for infants below six months only. AVA will also impose stricter regulations on formula milk labelling to prohibit the use of idealised images through nutritional claims.
HPB will be strengthening public education efforts through a multi-year campaign on children’s nutritional needs. The campaign will be up and running by the end of May 2017.
Aggressive Marketing & Premium Branding driving up formula milk prices
Call to end formula milk firms' aggressive tactics
The authorities are calling for a halt to formula milk companies' aggressive marketing methods, including inducements to hospitals, in response to public concern about the steep rise in prices.
In particular, sponsorship & payment arrangements between manufacturers & private hospitals are "conflict of interest" deals that should be reviewed, they say.
This follows a new report by Singapore's competition watchdog which found that formula milk manufacturers are paying private hospitals to distribute their products to newborns.
Minister Josephine Teo Says Milk Is Milk, Netizens Say She’s Missing The Point
While Mrs Teo is right that all milk is nutritious and breastfeeding is the way to go, perhaps once again she could have phrased it in way that didn’t seem insensitive to people who face issues that she may not face.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time she has riled netizens with her comments. Read our story about Mrs Josephine Teo’s “sex in small spaces” comment and our story about Mrs Josephine Teo comparing Singapore women to mother hens.
By saying “milk is milk” she may have ignored the mothers whose babies can only take certain brands for some reason, and by promoting breastfeeding she may have overlooked the issues that Singapore women face while trying to breastfeed.
Milk is milk, except for breast milk which is best
Milk is Milk. Diapers are diapers. A pram is a pram. Childcare is childcare. Education is education. If the Ministry of Making Babies is serious about encouraging us to have more babies, then they should put a stop to runaway advertising across the board for all baby-related products and services. Yet parents being parents continue to splurge on their little ones, from giving premium quality milk powder to Porsche-grade prams all the way to putting them in an elite school or tuition centre if they could afford it.
A quality infant formula, as the ads go, would be your child’s ‘best start’ in life. In the 70’s, milk powder was enriched with nothing more than vitamins A and D and given unappetising names like ‘Cowhead’. Today you have an whole armamentarium of fortified goodness targeting baby organs such as the brain, eyes and intestines, with fancy brand names such as Gain IQ (the IQ stands for Intestinal Quality), Dugro (formerly Dumex) and MaMil Gold (as in Ma’s Milk?). In TV ads, kids fed on premium formulae are dressed as little Sherlock Holmes solving practical problems to save the day. It remains to be seen if these enhanced abilities extend to solving Maths problems for PSLE.
It’s not surprising that Josephine Teo would have no qualms about going for the cheapest milk powder on the market. After all, it’s this ‘bare-minimum’ attitude that led her to conclude that couples only need a small space to have sex. And hence small pockets to buy formula milk too.
related: You don't need much space to have sex
Josephine Teo on ‘no flat, no child’ belief
That was the feisty rejoinder from Sr Minister of State Josephine Teo, who oversees the National Population & Talent Division, to a question on whether young people are not getting their flats early enough to have children.
The suggestion was that this could be a chicken-&-egg problem. To qualify for the Parenthood Priority Scheme, which gives 1st-time married couples 1st dibs on getting a flat, they must be expecting or have a citizen child below 16.
But to have a child, some say they need to have a flat first.