FairPrice locks up infant formula behind plastic screens to deter shoplifting

Photo of locked shelves goes viral online, as netizen express confusion and dismay

Photo showing plastic screens locked across the aisle with infant formulas at NTUC FairPrice outlet. (PHOTO: Reddit)
Photo showing plastic screens locked across the aisle with infant formulas at NTUC FairPrice outlet. (PHOTO: Reddit)

UPDATE: Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai responds to the "misleading impression" of infant formula shoplifting

SINGAPORE — Supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice has installed screens and locks on shelves displaying infant formula in one of its outlets at the Bukit Batok MRT Station, in a trial to prevent theft of the baby milk powders.

Fairprice confirmed this on Wednesday (18 January) after a viral picture of the locked shelves raised concern among netizens.

Twitter user Shawn Lim tweeted a viral photo of a locked display of infant formula on 17 January 2023.
Twitter user Shawn Lim tweeted a viral photo of a locked display of infant formula on 17 January 2023. (PHOTO: ShawnLim/TwitterScreengrab)

Twitter user Shawn Lim tweeted a photo of a locked display of infant formula earlier this week, and the photo became viral across other social media platforms like Reddit, with the original post garnering over 106,000 views on Twitter.

In his post, Lim said that FairPrice had locked up the baby milk powder because the powders were allegedly stolen.

"Breaks my heart that there are people out there who are struggling to feed their babies," he added.

This prompted confusion and worry among netizens. Twitter user Clara Tan said it was strange and had never seen food being shoplifted, claiming that it sounds "like an overreaction."

In response to the picture, Reddit user kormanny questioned whether it was real and requested more support for the afflicted.

Based on the Fairprice's online store, baby milk powder can cost as low as $18.47 for a 900-gram Abbott Grow Baby Infant Milk Formula Step 1, or as high as $383.35 for a multipack Enfamil A+ Gentlease Baby Milk Powder formula 6x900g.

Trial to prevent theft

Following the viral incident, a FairPrice spokesman told Yahoo News Singapore on Wednesday that it had started a trial at the Bukit Batok Station outlet since infant formula is commonly stolen.

"This trial started two weeks ago, and we continue to assess the feasibility of continuing or extending this initiative," the spokesman said in a media statement

The statement said the trial complemented other security measures, such as CCTV cameras and plain-clothes security officers, that it had put in place to deter shoplifting.

CNA reported on Wednesday that a similar plastic screen with a lock was seen at another FairPrice outlet in Boon Lay Shopping Centre. Its report noted that every row of baby formula was kept behind a transparent plastic screen and that the screen was long enough for consumers to touch the tins but not remove them.

According to CNA, the FairPrice outlet staff confirmed that the screens were installed to prevent theft. They added that the outlet was open 24 hours daily and had fewer staff in the wee hours of the morning to watch over the items.

Measures not implemented at other supermarkets and outlets

The Straits Times reported that supermarket chain Sheng Shiong has encountered theft cases involving milk powder in its stores. It is working with the police to deter theft requiring employees to wear vests reading "Shopwatch, May I help you?"

CNA also visited six other NTUC FairPrice stores islandwide in addition to Bukit Batok and Boon Lay, none of which secured formula milk behind screens.

Most outlets had similar signs warning shoplifters, and CCTV cameras were also visible.

Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai responds to the "misleading impression"

In a Facebook video, Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai said on Thursday (19 January) that a "misleading impression" has been given over FairPrice's decision to tackle milk infant formula shoplifting.

"Some people understandably are getting an impression out here that some people cannot afford milk powder for their children."

According to Mr Murali, he checked with the police and clarified that it wasn't true.

"The typical shoplifter that the FairPrice is concerned about are people who steal with the view of wanting to make a profit, which means selling and making a profit. It is certainly not the situation many readers are concerned about," he added.

Assuring everyone that a very established system was in place to assist families in need, he expressed gratitude for the public's willingness to help by offering to buy milk for the residents.

"The South West CDC mayor Low Yen Ling has a good number of programmes helping low-income families, and I am in touch with her on this specific matter. There are also help schemes (available) in Bukit Batok, " said Mr Murali

Low-income families can, for instance, purchase infant and adult milk at substantial discounts through a program.

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