TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Food and Drug Monitoring Agency`s (BPOM) regulation on condensed milk was issued too late. Although a number of studies published several years ago have pointed out that condensed milk contains no milk, the BPOM issued a regulation only in May.
But the regulation is limited to the products labels and advertisements. The agency bans visuals showing that condensed milk is equal to other dairy products. Manufacturers are also prohibited from showing condensed milk served in hot water, from featuring children under the age of five on billboards and labels, as well as advertising during shows (or events) for children.
Condensed milk advertisements are indeed misleading. Consuming two glasses of condensed milk a day is claimed to be a way to obtain maximum nutrition. But two tablespoons of condensed milk in a glass of water contain 42 grams of sugar, or equivalent to the daily need for sugar, according to the health ministry. This type of advertisement violates the Law on Consumer Protection, which bans ads that convey misleading information, including in regard to the quality, quantity, ingredients, and purpose of a product.
For adults, the recommendation of consuming two glasses of condensed milk per day may lead to diabetes. For children, the sweet taste of condensed milk may disrupt their appetite for food. In the end, condensed milk consumption may cause malnutrition. In early 2018, several toddlers in Kendari suffered from malnutrition because of excessive condensed milk consumption, disproportionate to good nutrition. The regulation was apparently ignored by producers, who continued to feature a smiling child holding a glass of milk, although several brands have only left sweet and condensed on their labels.
People only took issue after the BPOMs letter was circulated on social media early this month. The media quoted BPOM Head Penny Lukito saying condensed milk contains no milk later revised to does not contain condensed milk. Producers promised to alter their packaging. But until today, not a single producer has felt they are accountable for the decades-long deception. Neither has any firm action been taken against this practice.
The BPOM should have announced that condensed milk is not milk. Many nutritionists and doctors suggest that the canned product does not fall under the category of dairies because half of its content is sugar, with only two percent protein in products in the condensed and sweet creamer category, and 7.5 percent protein in products in the sweet condensed milk category. Compare these protein contents with formula, which contains 18 percent protein. Taking away milk from sweetened condensed milk seems like a mere recommendation for the public to not consume condensed milk mixed with hot water as one would consume powdered milk.
The BPOM need not worry that the condensed milk industry will falter because of the regulation. Even if the product is no longer consumed the way one would consume milk, it can still be used as a sweetener or topping. The BPOM should now direct its focus to other, similarly problematic products for example juice products illustrated as containing plenty of fruit essence, despite their sugar-dominated contents. With the aim to protect multitudes from diabetes and obesity, the BPOM must not be concerned with producers accusation that the agency's decision was driven by the trade war.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine