Breast Milk Sold on the Internet Often Contaminated

Milk-sharing websites come with risks

Beware the dangers of buying breast milk online.

New mothers beware: While breast milk is purportedly much better for children when dealing with allergies and the like, a new study has found that milk from milk-sharing sites was often contaminated.

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that out of 101 milk samples purchased or acquired through milk-sharing sites, 64 percent of the samples were contaminated with staph. Strep tainted some 36 percent of the samples, wihile almost 75 percent of the samples had some other bacteria in the milk.

In some cases, the amounts detected were enough to sicken a child, and three of the samples contained salmonella.

Oftentimes, mothers will turn to the Internet to purchase or receive breast milk for free, as it's generally less expensive than a milk bank. Milk bought online is usually between $1 to $2.50 an ounce, compared to $4 or $5 from a milk bank.

Unfortunately, the milk sold on these sites is not always sampled for culture growth, while milk banks do test the milk. "A rule of thumb used by milk banking systems in several countries is that if the milk contains more than 10,000 colony-forming units (CFU)/mL total aerobic bacterial count or any pathogenic [gram-negative] bacteria, they would not consider feeding that milk raw to an infant," researcher Sara A. Keim told MedPage Today.

According to the samples, 44 percent of Internet milk had coliform, compared to 25 percent of milk-bank milk. Salmonella contaminated Internet milk (3 percent), but not milk-bank milk. Meanwhile, Staphylococcus sp contaminated 63 percent, compared to 25 percent of milk-bank milk.

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Of course, as MedPage Today notes, the Internet-bought milk might be suspected as fraud, as the breast milk can be laced with cow's milk. "We are currently carrying out a second phase of the study to determine that," Keim said. "It's possible that some samples were not entirely breast milk."