Some Breast Milk Sold Online May Be Mixed with Cow’s Milk, a Danger for Newborns

Pediatricians should be aware of the online market for human milk and the potential risks, the researchers warned

Researchers positively indentified the presence of cow's milk in a number of breast milk samples purchased anonymously over the Internet. 

A new study published Monday, April 6 in the Pediatrics journal shows a troubling trail of fraud connected to the sale of breast milk online, a practice that has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Out of 102 samples of breast milk purchased online, 10 samples contained at least 10 percent cow’s milk, which poses considerable risks for infants. An earlier study found that 75 percent of those same samples were contaminated by viruses or bacteria.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents do not feed their children cow’s milk, which is too high in protein and potassium, and too low in iron and essential fatty acids, until they are at least a year old. What’s more, babies who are allergic to cow’s milk may suffer reactions ranging from mild discomfort to full anaphylactic shock.

“We had trouble thinking of ways this could happen without the seller realizing it,” Sarah Keim, the lead author and a researcher at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told The Wall Street Journal. “Some samples were close to half-human, half-cow’s milk.”

The AAP strongly encourages mothers to breastfeed, but warns that, as with any indirect source, the possibility of contamination must be considered.

“Just because the milk ordered via the Internet looks like milk does not mean that it is human milk or only human milk,” Joan Meek, who organizes the AAP’s section on breastfeeding initiatives, told the WSJ. 

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