The online market for human breast milk is a serious health risk

Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Human breast milk bought online by some fitness communities, fetishists and chronic disease sufferers can be dangerous, experts say.

There is a booming market of adult buyers of human breast milk with websites and forums describing it as a clean super food which can lead to physical gains in the gym, helping with erectile dysfunction and even cancer.

In an editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dr Sarah Steele of the Global Health and Policy Unit, Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues write that the purported benefits do not stand up clinically.

And raw human milk purchased online or in an unpasteurised state has many risks.

“Nutritionally there is less protein in breast milk than other milks like cow’s milk,” said Dr Steele.

“Potential buyers should be made aware that no scientific study evidences that direct adult consumption of human milk for medicinal properties offers anything more than a placebo effect.”

The improper or prolonged storage and transportation of milk can expose consumers to bacterial food-borne illnesses.

The lack of pasteurisation and testing not only indicates a bacterial risk but also exposes consumers to a host of infectious diseases, including hepatitis, HIV and syphilis.

“While many online mums claim they have been tested for viruses during pregnancy, many do not realise that serological screening needs to be undertaken regularly,” said Dr Steele.

The craze may also have another impact. Arthur I. Eidelman, editor-in-chief of Breastfeeding Medicine journal, says the commercial side of the trade is threatening the altruistic donation of breast milk to regulated non-profit milk banks.

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