San Francisco Chronicle (12.22.11) - Thursday, January 05,
Health experts are warning about the potential dangers of
Nonprofit US breast milk banks reported $9 million in annual
sales in 2010. Buyers include mothers who do not produce
enough of their own milk to breastfeed, those with medical
issues, and adoptive and gay parents. The milk banks screen
donors and treat the donated milk. But about 3 percent of
1,019 potential donors screened positive for antibodies to
diseases like HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis, according to a
2010 study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood Fetal and
Neonatal Edition. Its authors concluded that casual sharing
from unscreened donors may carry "significant risk."
The Food and Drug Administration recommends against giving
babies breast milk sold online or received directly from
individuals or through the Internet, said spokesperson Sandy
Walsh. FDA lacks the authority to regulate breast milk sales
and donations, she said.
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has issued a call to action,
saying online sales create "significant risks." The safety of
donor milk should be reviewed and clinical guidelines drafted
for its use, she said.
"I can't understand why anyone would want milk that way," said
Richard Schanler, chair of the breast-feeding unit at the
American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends infants be
breast-fed exclusively for six months. "The women could be
using illicit drugs, medications or have some diseases," he
said, confirming that breast milk acquired online may expose
babies to bacteria and diseases including HIV and hepatitis.
Emma Kwasnica, a breast-feeding activist and founder of the
Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network Facebook page, where
mothers in communities worldwide post offers to share milk for
free, said safety warnings about the practice come from a
patriarchal system that devalues women.