News 4 Investigates: Online buying and selling of human breast m - KMOV.com

News 4 Investigates: Online buying and selling of human breast milk reveals potential hazards

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Breast milk ordered online (Credit: KMOV) Breast milk ordered online (Credit: KMOV)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) – Some mothers who cannot produce their own breast milk have turned to buying breast milk online.

With numerous studies showing that human breast milk is a better nutritional value for infants than formula alone, many mothers choose breast-feeding for their babies. But not all mothers are able to breast-feed and some who do find they cannot produce enough milk.

Some of those mothers seek to supplement their own milk production with donor milk from other mothers, and some obtain that milk from mothers who sell their own surplus breast milk through online sites.          

Human breast milk was found for sale on Craigslist and on a human breast milk site called "Only The Breast." Prices ranged from $1.00 to about $2.50 an ounce. The quoted sale price did not include the price of shipping.

Over the course of two months, News 4 conducted an investigation to see how the process of selling and buying breast milk online works. News 4 also wanted to find out if the breast milk obtained through online sales is safe and healthy.

News 4 was able to arrange sales with three mothers. Two of those sales arrived by FedEx and U.S. mail. One came very well packed in a foam cooler with dry ice and appeared to be good condition. The other arrived without proper packaging and the milk leaked out of its heavy plastic storage baggies.

The third sale was with an area mother who agreed to meet a News 4 reporter at a White Castle parking lot in Festus, Missouri to sell her milk. After purchasing her milk, it was placed immediately into a cooler and within a half hour was transferred to a freezer.

All three samples were delivered to Deibel Labs in St. Louis to be tested. The lab was able to test two of the samples. But the milk that arrived damaged was unable to be tested due to the degraded condition. 

After obtaining results of the testing professor Elizabeth Quinn at Washington University reviewed the results. Quinn said she was shocked at what the testing showed.

"It's alarming, it's absolutely alarming," said Quinn. 

Quinn said the amount of bacterial levels in one of the samples, the sample that was shipped and appeared to be in good condition, was seven times higher than allowable standards.

Quinn said the high levels of bacteria can absolutely make a baby sick.

The milk sold in the Festus parking lot tested to be clean and safe. 

Professor Quinn's assessment was blunt: "If you wouldn't buy baked goods on Craigslist, don't buy breast milk."

National studies of breast milk purchased online have found similar results. One study found 75 percent of breast milk bought online had high levels of bacteria. Another study found 10 percent of samples may have been topped off with cow's milk, which can make some babies sick.

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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