Human breast milk bought over the internet contained added cow’s milk in 10% of cases tested by researchers in a recent study.
Many babies receiving the doctored milk are at risk from allergic reactions and of infectious disease from bacterial and viral contamination of such milk.
“We found that one in every 10 samples of breast milk purchased over the Internet had significant amounts of cow’s milk added, and this poses a risk to infants with an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk,” said lead author Sarah A. Keim, principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioural Health in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the US.
“If a baby with cow’s milk allergy were to drink this milk, it could be very harmful.”
The team’s previous research found that 21% of individuals seeking human milk online did so for a child with a pre-existing medical condition. And 16% of these parents specifically sought out the purchased human milk due to their baby’s formula intolerance.
The study published today in the journal Pediatrics is the first to document that milk purchased online is frequently adulterated with intentionally added ingredients.
“We were concerned that, because money is exchanged in these transactions, there might be an incentive to boost milk volumes in order to make more money,” Dr. Keim said.
“Cow’s milk and infant formula resemble human milk and could potentially be added to boost volumes without the recipient knowing. Mothers who consider purchasing breast milk over the Internet should beware – when you obtain milk from an unfamiliar source, you cannot know for sure that what you are getting is safe for your baby.”
Just last month British scientists warned mothers about buying breast milk online, saying the trade poses serious risks to infant health and needs urgent regulation.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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