The MILO Controversy: The Lie We’ve Been Fed

Growing up, MILO was a staple at home. Hungry? Drink MILO. Tired? Drink MILO. Bored? Drink MILO. Like mine, many households in Malaysia stock up on MILO because it is the go-to drink, especially for a growing child: it helps with growth, gives you energy and is healthy.

 

Or is it?

Nestle Milo Truck

Remember flocking to the MILO van with so much excitement whenever it came around? I do. Many of my after-school memories consist of sweaty kids pushing our way through to get our pencil-stained hands on that little green paper cup of goodness. But ask me to drink a cup of MILO now and I’d think twice because I’ve noticed that this once-delicious chocolatey drink has become increasingly – and awfully – sweeter over the years. I thought maybe it was just me and the inevitable fate of a sad, aging tastebud (cue sentimental music). Thankfully, this post 

surfaced, proving my suspicions: MILO is sugar-laden and not as healthy as Nestlé promotes it to be.
Vishen Lakhiani MindValley
If you haven’t already caught the wind, Vishen Lakhiani, fellow Malaysian and founder of the global educational powerhouse MindValley recently released a video (and a follow-up), which raised suspicions on the credibility of Milo’s nutritional benefits. According to Nestlé Malaysia – MILO is energy- and nutrient-packed, making it an ‘excellent source of energy for your action filled day’. However, Lakhiani begs to differ; the energy spike is caused by the excess amount of sugar in the drink. He then goes on to explain, and put into perspective, just how unhealthy the level of sugar in MILO is. Although the food giant claims (but how can we be so sure, as they’ve been reported to pay nutritionists off) that MILO only contains 6% sugar if prepared as recommended, how many grams is that 6%? Lakhiani shares that a glass of the drink contains roughly 20 grams of sugar, which is merely 5 grams shy of the World Health Organization’s daily recommended sugar consumption level for adults. 
MILO has been advertised as a healthy way to start your day
So, because MILO has been advertised as a healthy way to start your day, many parents give their children a glass of this drink every morning before school. On the MILO website, they also include facts and statistics on how many kids do not have breakfast, and how that affects their wellbeing. Sounds a lot like guilt-tripping parents into buying MILO for their kids, if you ask me. Now imagine this, these kids have already consumed 20 grams of sugar first thing in the morning, and proceed to have their meals throughout the day, a candy here and there and maybe even dessert. One can only imagine what an extremely high level of sugar intake that is! And parents are unaware because they would never have suspected that the drink they give their children in the morning is more than enough sugar for the entire day! Shocking, don’t you think? If you haven’t watched the video, go check it out and you’ll see how harmful this apparently ‘healthy’ food actually is. But what’s even more shocking is that, as reported by The New York Times, our nation’s nutritionists may just be getting paid off to lie about the health benefits of the drink, and hide the ugly truth. And that being, the rising rate of obesity because of insufficient (and unreliable) nutritional education and awareness.

Obesity in Malaysia is no small matter; it’s all around us. With a rate of nearly 50%, (statistically meaning) if you’re with a friend right now, chances are, one of you is obese), our country is the most obese nation in Asia. As we know, sugar is a large contributor to obesity – so why is the Ministry of Health not doing anything to acknowledge the fact that an unhealthily sweet drink like MILO should NOT be a child’s everyday breakfast drink (as they market themselves to be)? Why are news corporations so hush about it? The only news reports on this fiasco is about MILO clearing the air but why aren’t The Star or the News Straits Times out there to uncover the truth, as they have done with numerous other issues? In fact, if you Google MILO right now, you’d find that their search comes out clean. Absolutely clean! Nothing about this controversy appears on the first page of the search. Talk about a brilliant PR team!
UPDATE (as of 7th Feb 2018):
There seems to be more air clearing being done.
It really intrigued me that such a viral issue was so slow to reach the masses via official news. Then it hit me: Nestlé – the largest food corporation in the world – is probably, easily, one of the largest advertisers in Malaysia. Globally, Nestlé has been known

to spend over US$2.9 billion on advertising per year. Print ads, billboards, TV commercials; you name it, Nestle’s on it. Hence, here in Malaysia, newspapers, websites, and maybe even authorities want to be on Nestlé’s good side. Agreeing with Lakhiani and exposing MILO for what it is might lose companies hundreds of thousands (or possibly even millions) in advertising fees.

Now, I may sound like I’ve been going on and on, ranting endlessly, but don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Nestlé. I simply am enraged that the health of so many young kids (and adults alike) are affected because of an industry giant’s ability to sell a lie. I am enraged that the Ministry of Health sees this happening right before their eyes, and refuses to acknowledge it. I am enraged that lives are at risk, purely because of greed.

Malaysians need to be educated on the real nutritional benefits of what we consume. We deserve to know the truth, and it’s about time the Ministry of Health does something about this. As Lakhiani very aptly put it: ‘Big food companies are not incentivized to make you feel healthier. They are incentivized to make you feel sick and keep you pumping your blood with sugar because sugar makes you hungrier so you buy more of their poisonous sh*t.’

So, here’s my two cents to big food companies out there, to those getting paid to stay quiet, to those who value money-making over life-saving: stop conditioning Malaysians to be okay with overly sweet, sugar-laden tastes from a young age. Stop falsely promoting unhealthy products and encouraging parents to think they are nourishing their children. Stop feeding us a lie that could potentially destroy our health.

Stop.

Stop to think about the lives of our future.

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