The black-market for human breast milk is a health danger, UK scientists say. Fetishists, bodybuilders and cancer patients can buy expressed milk through a growing number of specialist websites and social media groups. Websites claiming human breast milk is a superfood boosting energy, the immune system and helping with erectile dysfunction and cancer have started a growing craze.
But scientists at Queen Mary University of London say there’s no clinical basis for these benefits and buying milk raw human milk online is dangerous. Because the milk is unpasteurized, it can carry dangerous germs – and drinkers are even putting themselves at risk of contracting HIV and syphilis.
“Nutritionally there is less protein in breast milk than other milks like cow’s milk,” said Dr Sarah Steele of Queen Mary University, writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. “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.”
Human milk can also be dangerous because it’s not screened for infectious diseases including hepatitis, HIV and syphilis and can also carry bacterial food-borne illnesses like any other raw milk.
“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.
“Sexual and other activities in the postpartum period may expose the woman expressing to viruses that they may unwittingly pass on to consumers of the milk.”
Authors of the new study are calling on health professionals and regulators to issue public guidance against purchasing human milk from the internet for adult and infant feeding. Instead, they should only buy from regulated milk banks.