SINGAPORE: Formula milk manufacturers will not be able to use nutrition and health claims, as well as images that make drinking formula milk look attractive, once changes to Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) regulations take effect.
AVA will also streamline its import regulations in order to facilitate the entry of more suppliers and brands of formula milk. These changes are expected to be finalised by end of this year, AVA said in a joint media release with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) on Wednesday (May 10).
The proposed changes in regulation come as a response to the recommendations by the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS), following a market inquiry into the formula milk industry.
The inquiry found that prices of formula milk have been increasing due to manufacturers spending heavily on marketing as well as research and development.
In its report, the watchdog recommended that the public be educated on the nutritional content of formula milk as well as the nutritional requirements of infants and young children. It called for greater consumer awareness regarding the availability of a variety of formula milk, including those that are cheaper.
In their joint statement, the authorities said that the Government will adjust regulations to encourage better price competition, strengthen public education efforts and encourage all hospitals to provide stronger support for breastfeeding.
HPB will mount a five-year campaign to step up public education on breastfeeding and its merits, especially in the infant's first year of life. Dr Chua Mei Chien, head of neonatology at KKH, said that scientific evidence suggests that breastfeeding helps to reduce the chance of developing obesity and diabetes later in life.
"For mothers, it reduces the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer," she said.
HPB will also reinforce messages that cows' milk is adequate to meet the nutritional needs of children above 12 months old, as part of a balanced diet.
The competition watchdog's report also suggested reviewing sponsorship and payments that manufacturers provide hospitals.
MOH said it will strongly encourage all hospitals providing maternity services to achieve the international Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative certification. Currently, none of the private hospitals has adopted this scheme, which prevents hospitals from entering into sponsorship arrangements with formula milk companies.
MOH will also look into making available more affordable infant formula brands in the ready-to-feed form suitable for use in hospitals.