Sale of breast milk has become a big business these days. Those offering it for sale online are making huge profits out of it- what with it selling for prices varying from $1 to $3 an ounce. Health experts however warn that nearly 10% of the breast milk being offered over various websites might actually contain cow’s milk or formula milk, thus posing a huge threat to the health of children suffering from allergies.
In an effort to find out how safe breast milk offered for sale online is, researchers at C enter for Biobehavioral Health at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati tested 102 samples of breast milk. 11 of these samples were found to be topped with cow’s milk to some extent.
They were found to contain bovine DNA. Barring one, the rest of the samples had enough of cow’s milk for it not to be passed off as accidental contamination. This, say the scientists, suggests that some online breast milk sellers were adding cow’s milk, so as to increase its volume. And, consequently, their profits.
“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 study author Sarah Keim, of the Center for Biobehavioral Health in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio.
“If a baby with cow’s milk allergy were to drink this milk, it could be very harmful.”
The team was prompted to find this out because of the huge amount of money that exchanges hand because of the health conditions and allergy related problems in some infants.
“It could be very harmful to babies with allergies or intolerance,” Keim added.
A neonatologist who did not form a part of the team conducting this study, Amy Hair, also warned about the potential health related problems posed by cow’s milk passing off as breast milk. Hair also directs the neonatal nutrition program at Texas Children’s Hospital.
“The diluted milk can – potentially — not provide enough nutrients a growing baby needs to develop properly. I’m a proponent of breast milk but if the option is buying breast milk online from an unscreened donor, and not from a reputable milk bank, I would recommend formula,” she said.
There are more than 55,000 women selling breast milk across various websites, a sharp increase from 13,000 of them doing so in 2011.