Business Daily Media

Behind moves to regulate breastmilk trade lies the threat of a corporate takeover

  • Written by Julie P. Smith, Honorary Associate Professor, Australian National University

The European Union is preparing to harmonise regulations governing the trade in human milk[1], which sounds like a good thing. But it won’t be if it sidelines breastfeeding or makes informal human-to-human milk exchanges more difficult.

Women and their families have exchanged human milk informally[2] (including for money) throughout history, and still do.

Until a century ago human milk was mainly delivered in person[3], breast-to-child, by friends, relatives or wet nurses if mothers couldn’t provide it.

Behind moves to regulate breastmilk trade lies the threat of a corporate takeover Woman buying milk from nurse at counter, 1939. AP-HP Archives, 3Fi3_25_MATERNITE _092

As the paediatric profession developed, hospitals in Europe and the United States took over the process and began administering human milk by bottles, at first filled by volunteers, and later, in the lead-up to the second world war, by paid donors[4].

Higher women’s wages after the war made paying donors financially prohibitive, and most countries moved closer to a “gift economy[5]” in which payment for products such as human milk and blood was seen as inappropriate[6], alongside a growing commercial market for formula and powder derived from cows milk.

Donor milk collected by charities and non-profit organisations from screened donors is mostly pasteurised[7] and tested to minimise risks of disease.

Biotech discovers breast milk

Things changed in 1999 when an American company, Prolacta[8], developed human milk-based products for fortifying breast milk fed to premature infants.

At first Prolacta didn’t pay[9] donors, but it now pays about US$4[10] per 100ml for milk it uses to make products that sell for up to US$250[11] per 100 ml.

Behind moves to regulate breastmilk trade lies the threat of a corporate takeover Prolacta human milk products[12] In 2015 a not-for-profit Utah-based company, Ambrosia Labs[13] established clinics in Cambodia to collect milk for exporting to the United States. After the United Nations Children’s Fund condemned the practice saying breast milk could be considered “human tissue” the Cambodian government banned[14] it. Some mothers despaired at losing crucial income[15]. Read more: Without better regulation, the market for breast milk will exploit mothers[16] A few years later in 2017 an Australian-Indian company Neolacta[17], was granted permission to sell milk collected from Indian mothers[18] in Australia. In 2019 a related company, NeoKare[19], established a “state-of-the-art” plant in Europe making freeze-dried fortifier sourced from UK donors. These human milk product manufacturers are competing with cow-sourced product manufacturers such as Nestle and might soon be competing with start-ups growing new products that mimic human milk[20]. Industry backs new regulation The harmonisation being considered by the European Union would extend to human milk the rules that already govern trade in blood, tissues and cells. Some member states in the European Union already apply tissue and cell rules to human milk, others apply food legislation, and at least 11 don’t regulate it at all[21]. Australian regulators will be watching closely, because Australian states and territories have similarly diverse rules. That formula companies[22] are backing the idea provides cause for concern. But it’s women who matter Health authorities have already expressed disquiet[23] about commerce-free internet-based milk sharing. The proposal would give them greater powers to act against it. If these powers were applied heavily they could shut down the generally safe[24] and self-regulated human-to-human trade. And advancing the medical market for human milk products might delay the advances in social and employment protection policies needed to support breastfeeding at work, at home and in public. Behind moves to regulate breastmilk trade lies the threat of a corporate takeover Australian Breastfeeding Association[25] Human milk is not simply a homogenised “commodity crop in a bottle”. Breastfeeding creates connections that are important for women’s health and wellbeing[26] and for their babies[27]. Ironically, where governments fail[28] to adequately protect, promote and support breastfeeding, mothers are often forced to turn to commercial formula for a quick fix. The proposals as drafted[29] pay scant regard to the United Nations human rights commissioner’s[30] view that “states should do more to support and protect breastfeeding, and end inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes”. A truly comprehensive set of laws would include protection from marketing and biomedical experiments[31] and allow suitable recompense for donors. Serological testing would be easily available to donors along with guidance to support milk sharing outside of medical facilities. Read more: The rise of commercial milk formulas matters for women and children[32] Such comprehensive laws would impose levies on commercial substitutes in order to fund better breastfeeding support[33] in maternity and newborn facilities. They would have at their centre the needs and rights of women, who are both the main providers of human milk and (on their children’s behalf) its biggest users.

References

  1. ^ human milk (ec.europa.eu)
  2. ^ informally (dl.uswr.ac.ir)
  3. ^ in person (internationalbreastfeedingjournal.biomedcentral.com)
  4. ^ paid donors (academic.oup.com)
  5. ^ gift economy (www.tandfonline.com)
  6. ^ inappropriate (www.routledge.com)
  7. ^ pasteurised (internationalbreastfeedingjournal.biomedcentral.com)
  8. ^ Prolacta (www.prolacta.com)
  9. ^ didn’t pay (www.thecut.com)
  10. ^ US$4 (www.prolacta.com)
  11. ^ US$250 (www.nature.com)
  12. ^ Prolacta human milk products (www.prolacta.com)
  13. ^ Ambrosia Labs (www.bodyandsoul.com.au)
  14. ^ banned (www.smh.com.au)
  15. ^ crucial income (www.phnompenhpost.com)
  16. ^ Without better regulation, the market for breast milk will exploit mothers (theconversation.com)
  17. ^ Neolacta (neolacta.com)
  18. ^ Indian mothers (www.abc.net.au)
  19. ^ NeoKare (neokare.co.uk)
  20. ^ mimic human milk (www.theatlantic.com)
  21. ^ don’t regulate it at all (ec.europa.eu)
  22. ^ formula companies (www.efcni.org)
  23. ^ disquiet (internationalbreastfeedingjournal.biomedcentral.com)
  24. ^ safe (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  25. ^ Australian Breastfeeding Association (www.breastfeeding.asn.au)
  26. ^ health and wellbeing (onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
  27. ^ babies (onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
  28. ^ where governments fail (internationalbreastfeedingjournal.biomedcentral.com)
  29. ^ as drafted (ec.europa.eu)
  30. ^ human rights commissioner’s (www.ohchr.org)
  31. ^ biomedical experiments (www.diva-portal.org)
  32. ^ The rise of commercial milk formulas matters for women and children (theconversation.com)
  33. ^ breastfeeding support (www.who.int)

Authors: Julie P. Smith, Honorary Associate Professor, Australian National University

Read more https://theconversation.com/behind-moves-to-regulate-breastmilk-trade-lies-the-threat-of-a-corporate-takeover-152446

Business Today

3 in 4 fundraisers have experienced sexual harassment on the job – often because of inappropriate behavior from donors

Sexual harassment is a common workplace hazard for nonprofit fundraisers.fizkes/iStock/Getty Images PlusWhile the #MeToo movement that raised public awareness of sexual harassment is making fewer headlines than it did in 2017 and ...

Cathay Pacific 2021 Sustainability Report

New commitments in carbon neutrality and diversity, and supporting the Hong Kong community during the pandemicThe Cathay Pacific Group has released its annual Sustainable Development Report that addresses its commitment and prog...

Cozycozy, is tackling consumer manipulation in the travel industry

With its user-centric algorithm, Cozycozy fights against the Online Travel Agencies' rampant manipulation of consumers’ choices. In 2019, 112.3 million domestic trips and 11.3 Million international trips were taken by Austral...

Foreign companies exiting Russia echo the pressure campaign against South Africa's racist apartheid system

McDonald's is leaving Russia after three decades of operating there.Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesMcDonald’s provided many Russians with their first taste of capitalism three decades ago. Now, the global fast-f...

Jennifer Westacott's interview with Ross Greenwood

Ross Greenwood, host, Business Now: Joining us is the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott. Jennifer, many thanks for your time as always. Quite clearly the government is setting out its age...

Business success as Aussie kids skateboard brand, Ookkie, launches in UK and Europe

Australia’s leading kids skateboard company, Ookkie, has set the wheels in motion for global business success, expanding into two new overseas markets thanks to growing demand for its products from ‘skateboard loving paren...

Business Daily Media Business Development

Rishi Sunak's £15 billion cost-of-living package and windfall tax: four experts respond

Rishi Sunak, the UK chancellor of the exchequer, has unveiled a £15 billion package of measures to help households with the cost of living, after energy watchdog Ofgem announced it wou...

Jonquil Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Economics and Personal Finance, The Open University - avatar Jonquil Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Economics and Personal Finance, The Open University

the economic tactics that drive Liverpool and Real Madrid

Liverpool against Real Madrid in the Champions League final is a fixture for football fans to savour – two giants battling it out for one of the most prized trophies in the game. And r...

Simon Chadwick, Global Professor of Sport | Director of Eurasian Sport, EM Lyon - avatar Simon Chadwick, Global Professor of Sport | Director of Eurasian Sport, EM Lyon

Cathay Pacific 2021 Sustainability Report

New commitments in carbon neutrality and diversity, and supporting the Hong Kong community during the pandemicThe Cathay Pacific Group has released its annual Sustainable Development Repor...

Business Daily Media - avatar Business Daily Media

Cozycozy, is tackling consumer manipulation in the travel industry

With its user-centric algorithm, Cozycozy fights against the Online Travel Agencies' rampant manipulation of consumers’ choices. In 2019, 112.3 million domestic trips and 11.3 Million i...

Business Daily Media - avatar Business Daily Media

How to talk to your employer about trauma

Chanintorn.v / ShutterstockThe impact of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a hidden chronic mental health issue in the workplace. A 2016 survey of UK adults found that one ...

Stefanos Nachmias, Principal Lecturer and Deputy Head of HRM Department, Nottingham Trent University - avatar Stefanos Nachmias, Principal Lecturer and Deputy Head of HRM Department, Nottingham Trent University

Jennifer Westacott's interview with Ross Greenwood

Ross Greenwood, host, Business Now: Joining us is the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott. Jennifer, many thanks for your time as always. Quite clear...

Ross Greenwood - avatar Ross Greenwood



NewsServices.com

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion