SINGAPORE: The Government has set up a taskforce to put in place measures to address the rising prices of formula milk in Singapore.
"Our priority is to tighten regulations on labelling and advertising, facilitate imports of more formula milk options, raise public awareness, and encourage good practices in our hospitals," said Senior Minister of State of Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon on Monday (May 22).
In a Facebook post, Dr Koh said he will be leading the taskforce which aims to put in place the key measures by the end of the year.
This comes after the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) released its report earlier this month, which found that manufacturers spend heavily on research and development as well as marketing in order to make their products appear premium, and build consumer loyalty to their brands.
Such efforts have pushed up the wholesale prices of the products, resulting in higher prices at retail stores, said the competition watchdog.
In response to recommendations by the CCS, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) had said 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 regulations take effect.
"The Government is now focused on the implementation of the measures," said Dr Koh on Monday. "It will require close coordination among the public agencies and hospitals."
The taskforce will include Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, MPs Sun Xueling and Rahayu Mahzam, as well as senior paediatricians Associate Professor Marion Aw from the National University Hospital (NUH) and Dr Chan Yoke Hwee from KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH).
"Xueling and Rahayu’s views will be particularly invaluable as they themselves are mothers of young children, and understand well the sentiments of other parents on this issue," wrote Dr Koh.
HELPING PARENTS MAKE "MORE INFORMED DECISIONS"
One of the issues raised by the competition watchdog was that some parents perceive more expensive brands to be of better quality, possibly due to manufacturer's aggressive marketing and the inability of parents to accurately assess the price versus quality trade-off.
To help parents make "more informed decisions about their children’s diet", the Health Promotion Board (HPB) would also launch a campaign in the next two weeks, Dr Koh added
Said taskforce member Assoc Prof Aw: "Dairy products are an important source of nutrition, particularly vitamin D and calcium for young children. With accurate information and objective data, we hope to help the parents make a more informed decision as to the choice of milk."
Dr Koh said he hopes that the measures put in place would lead to more choices of formula milk, "and give parents greater peace of mind to select an option that best meets their family’s needs."