The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) would like to inform the public of rare cases of allergic reactions linked to the consumption of products with galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS), which is found in some milk formulas sold in Singapore.
2. Since 2007, about two cases of GOS allergies on average have been reported each year in Singapore. All the cases have a history of atopy or allergic conditions such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), allergic rhinitis or asthma and were found to be sensitised to house dust mites. To date, there were no reported cases of infants (below 2 years old) who had been allergic to GOS.
3. Exposure to GOS in our population includes milk formulas for infants, children (e.g. follow-on formula and growing up milk) and pregnant or lactating mothers. GOS allergy symptoms include:
a) Respiratory: Sneezing, runny nose/ blocked nose, cough, throat and chest tightness, and wheezing
b) Skin: Hives and itch, including itchy eyes
c) Gastrointestinal: Diarrhoea
4. GOS is a carbohydrate added in foods as a prebiotic to promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut to help maintain a healthy digestive system. Many countries, including Singapore, have approved the use of GOS in food products as it has been evaluated to be safe for human consumption. (Please refer to the Annex for information on GOS and food allergies.)
5. GOS is not well documented to cause food allergy. Healthy individuals with no history of allergy are not likely to develop allergic reactions due to the consumption of GOS. Consumers who had previously consumed, or who are currently consuming GOS products with no allergic reactions, are highly unlikely to have GOS allergy.
6. Our local clinicians are conducting further studies to better understand the mechanism of the GOS in triggering the allergic reactions. We will continue to closely monitor the situation.
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