The internet has created a thriving market for women who want to sell breast milk and for those who want it for their babies. However, a new study shows that most breast milk sold online may contain high levels of harmful bacteria and other contaminants.
For the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers analyzed 100 samples of breast milk sold online. They found that three out of four samples contain either a large amount of bacterial growth or contained bacteria that could cause disease, such as fecal contamination.
The contamination was likely accidental, a result of poor hygiene during milk collection, or the use of unclean containers or unsanitary breast pump parts. Shipping practices could also have compromised the milk. For example, about one-fifth of sellers did not put dry ice or another cooling product in the mailing container before shipping it.
For the most part, the bacteria are generally harmless as long as they don’t “grow out of control,” the study’s author’s reported. However, they can cause illnesses in infants including staphylococcus and streptococcus. Researchers also tested for salmonella, E.coli and HIV, the latter of which was not found during the study.
Researchers also tested milk from milk banks, which follow strict guidelines set by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. The non-profit organizations provide pasteurized milk from screened donors for fragile and premature infants. Pasteurizing helps kill harmful bacteria.
The FDA warns against feeding babies breast milk that is obtained directly from individuals or online. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages feeding premature infants human breast milk from donors who have not been thoroughly screened.
Source: USA Today