Take a closer look at the labels next time you’re shopping for fresh milk at the refrigerated section of the supermarket. I had assumed “Full Cream Milk” is made from fresh milk, especially since it’s sitting in the chiller compartment. But something made me look at the ingredients that day. I was shocked to find “Full Cream Milk” is made from milk solids, milk fat, something called choline chloride and permitted food conditioners.
Only “Fresh Milk” is actually made from fresh cow’s milk without additives. And those of you thinking you’re being healthier by going for “Low Fat Milk” – be aware that it also contains choline cloride and food conditioners.
Condensed milk has already disappeared from our shelves. Will whole milk also become impossible to find? Wait, I hear you say. You must be wrong. How do they make my teh tarik if there is no condensed milk?
Teh tarik now contains palm oil! It’s Condensed Creamer being sold nowadays. And look at the ingredients – palm oil is in it. Now, I am a strong supporter of palm oil and am dismayed by the unfair western lobby against it (Remember the misinformation that palm oil is bad for the heart? And now they’re bringing orang utans into the argument? Oops. I might have just antagonised some greenies. Let me say upfront that I’m a member of the Malaysian Nature Society and we’ll save this for another blog another time).
I like palm oil; I use it to cook at home and it’s great for deep-frying my chicken chop. But I absolutely hate palm oil in my tea! I noticed the emergence of palm oil two years ago, when my favourite coffee-shop drink, teh-C-kosong started tasting odd. Because there is no sugar to mask the taste, the “funny” taste of the “milk” quickly became apparent. That was when I started looking more closely and realised that most manufacturers were selling Evaporated Creamer instead of Evaporated Milk. The difference – palm oil is used instead of milk.
What are the health implications? Are we sowing the seeds for a whole generation of calcium-deficient adults? How many parents realise that the ‘milk’ they are putting into the Milo/Horlicks/Nescafe/tea/coffee is actually creamer? Nutrition is not my forte; so comments here would be very welcome.
From the economic perspective, it is clear evidence that price controls do not work. Condensed milk is a “controlled-price” item. If the controlled price is too low, there will first be lower quality as poorer ingredients are used, then shortages as less efficient producers pull out and ultimately no product at all when it is unprofitable for anybody at all to make it.
Next, it also leads to a misleading inflation (CPI) number. If the price is controlled and does not change, then the CPI shows no inflation. But the product itself is also not available in the market, so consumers either have to settle for inferior substitutes, or more-expensive products. Minister of Domestic Trade & Consumer Affairs Shahrir Samad had honestly and sensibly pointed out in March that price controls are in place on products that do not exist! He said he was working on resolving these. I do hope he does, at the very least so that I will be able to get decent teh-C-kosong again.
(With thanks to Lulu for help with background).