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Mothers warned of dangers of online breast milk market

The sale of human breast milk on the internet poses serious risks to infant health and needs urgent regulation, experts writing in The BMJ warn.

 
The online market has been growing rapidly due to demand from many new mothers who find it difficult or are unable to breastfeed.

But the market is “dangerous” and “putting infant health at risk” because it is not regulated, argues Sarah Steele, a lecturer at the Global Health, Policy and Innovation Unit at Queen Mary University London.

Purchasing human breast milk on the internet can be cheaper than buying from regulated milk banks, where it can cost up to $3-4 per ounce, because sellers can cut corners to save on costs such as pasteurization, testing for disease and contamination, and the appropriate collection, storage and shipping of milk. 

“Milk bought online is far from an ideal alternative, exposing infants and other consumers to microbiological and chemical agents,” write the authors. “Urgent action is required to make this market safer.”
 
Steele says healthcare workers should be offered training on the online market so they can provide good advice and offer safe alternatives to new mothers.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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