Indonesia cracks down on condensed milk being marketed as a healthy ‘milk’ substitute for kids

It is not uncommon for Indonesian parents to give their kids condensed milk mixed with water as a substitute for regular milk. This might seem like a reasonable action based purely on the product’s name, but as anybody who has ever looked at the nutritional label on a can of condensed milk could tell you, the viscous white liquid inside is incredibly unhealthy and primarily composed of sugar .

Parents who give condensed milk to kids as a milk substitute could be blamed for their ignorance, but in Indonesia they’re also the victims of a massive marketing effort that for decades has deceptively sold parents on the idea that condensed milk was a healthy and cheap alternative to regular milk for their children. Just check out the labels on these condensed milk cans, a common sight in Indonesian markets.

That sort of dangerously misleading marketing will hopefully become a thing of the past now that the Indonesian government’s Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM) has released a new set of regulations limiting how condensed milk producers can present their products to the public.

BPOM recently released a circular to the industry outlining these new regulations. At the top it states: “In order to protect consumers, especially children, from false and misleading information, adequate protection measures are required.”

The four regulations contained in the circular are:

  1. It is prohibited to show children under 5 years of age in any form.
  2. It is prohibited to use visualizations that presents condensed milk as being similar to other dairy products in terms of nutritional content.  
  3. It is prohibited to use visualizations of liquid milk, milk in a glass, or condensed milk being brewed to serve as a drink.
  4. Advertising for condensed milk products is prohibited from being shown around or in children’s entertainment programs.

The circular says condensed milk producers, importers and distributors must comply with the new regulations within six months.

House of Representatives Commission IX member Suryani Chaniago said she was pleased with BPOM’s decision to issue the circular, saying she had been criticizing the condensed milk industry for years, calling it a scam.

“Since two years ago, Commission IX has criticized (the industry) because, in addition to their products not containing cow’s milk, it turns out that these sweetened condensed milk products contain more than 40% sugar. So in addition to damaging the teeth, this product also has none of the nutritional content of milk. Only containing 8% milk fat. Of course this can be categorized as public fraud! ” Suryani told Detik yesterday.

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