Following a report from the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) that revealed how manufacturers’ expenditure on research, development and marketing push up retail prices of products like formula milk, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said new proposed regulatory changes should not permit formula milk manufacturers to use health and nutrition claims, or images that make their product look more appealing.
In a Facebook post on Monday (May 22), Koh Poh Koon, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s senior minister of state, said: “I will be leading a task force to ensure that we put in place the key measures by the end of the year. 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.”
The task force will include Dr Amy Khor, MPs Sun Xueling and Rahayu Mahzam, as well as senior paediatricians, associate professor Marion Aw and Dr Chan Yoke Hwee.
Koh said that Sun and Mahzam’s “views will be particularly invaluable as they themselves are mothers of young children”, adding that the government needs “close coordination among the public agencies and hospitals” in its implementation of the new measures.
Today, the Sale of Infant Foods Ethics Committee Code of Ethics already restricts advertising, marketing and promotion of infant formula for infants below six months. In the third quarter of 2017, this will be extended to all infant formula for infants up to 12 months of age.
Koh also mentioned an upcoming Health Promotion Board (HPB) campaign designed to help parents make “more informed decisions about their children’s diet”, which will aim to boost breastfeeding rates.
He added he hoped the new measures would result in a greater variety of formula milk choices, so parents can “select an option that best meets their family’s needs”.
A recent study from Babyment.com found that prices of infant milk formula in Singapore increased between 20.3% to 39.3% since 2012.