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'Risks' of breast milk sold online

Buying human breast milk on the internet poses serious health risks to babies, experts have warned.

Breast milk sold online can be cheaper than from regulated milk banks, and is often bought by mothers who are unable to breastfeed, as well as cancer sufferers, fetishists and bodybuilders.

Research published in the British Medical Journal said stricter regulation is needed as it could be potentially dangerous.

The report said women often feel pressurised by "emotive, moralising discourse around breast feeding" and the belief that "formula is inferior to human milk".

"In the absence of warnings about the dangers of buying milk online, this option might seem healthy and beneficial - the better choice if one can't breast feed oneself," it added.

"What mothers, and many healthcare workers, don't realise is that this market is dangerous, putting infant health at risk."

The report said milk should be screened for diseases, such as, hepatitis B and C, HIV and human T cell lymphotropic virus and syphilis and healthcare workers should be offered training on the online market so they can provide good advice and offer safe alternatives to new mothers.

Previous research has shown that milk purchased online has more bacterial growth due to lack of pasteurisation and poor shipping and storage.

One study showed that only nine out of 101 samples did not have bacterial growth, while others revealed that 25% of milk samples were delivered with poor packaging and were no longer frozen, and had been contaminated with drugs and other substances.

"At present milk bought online is a far from ideal alternative, exposing infants and other consumers to microbiological and chemical agents," the report led by the Global Health, Policy and Innovation Unit at Queen Mary University London concluded.

"Urgent action is required to make this market safer."

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