Some parents still buying formula milk in Johor Baru after fake product scare
Prices of formula milk sold at a supermarket in Singapore in 2017. (Photo: David Bottomley)
SINGAPORE: Undeterred by the fake baby milk scare in Johor Baru, some Singapore parents say they will continue to buy formula milk from Malaysia as the products are cheaper there.This comes after nearly S$14,000 worth of fake milk products were seized after a toddler suffered severe vomiting from consuming the milk. Following the incident, Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority advised consumers to "exercise caution" when buying food overseas.
But even with the hassle of commuting, traffic jams and toll charges, some parents say the savings from bulk buying in Malaysia are worth the trips.
Rather than switch over to cheaper brands launched over the past year in response to rising prices, some parents say that their children need specialised milk or are already used to certain brands.
Lecturer Sarah Somarajan could not find affordable formula milk for her lactose-intolerant toddler, who often suffered from a bloated stomach before they found the right product.“I was really at my wits' end because of his lactose intolerance and the milk powder was just so expensive,” said Ms Sarah.
market inquiry by the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS), heavy investment into R&D and marketing costs have been blamed for the price increase.
Aside from price competition, CCS said that non-price competition have played a bigger role in the supply of formula milk. Findings from the market inquiry found that parents prefer established brands and prioritise brand name, nutrition and safety when they pay for formula milk. A majority of parents also tended to continue with milk products that their babies are exposed to at birth in hospitals, where formula milk manufacturers have aggressively marketed to.
Wide-ranging measures from regulating advertisements to public awareness programmes were introduced by various government agencies and supermarkets to tackle the issue. In recent months, supermarkets have started stocking formula milk with affordable prices of between S$25 and S$40.
Brands that cost about or less than S$40 a tin have been launched in the last seven months, including made-in-Singapore milk powder Einmilk, Australia’s Own, Nature One Dairy, Blackmores, and FairPrice's housebrand formula milk.
In a response to CNA, Sheng Siong, which stocks Nature One Dairy, said, "For a new brand that is just introduced into the market, we are very pleased with its sales and we have been seeing returning customers for the products."
Still, some parents insist on shopping for baby products, including formula milk, in Malaysia.
"It was very frustrating because you know when you have a child and the child has certain issues, not every milk powder works," Ms Sarah said.