Study finds breast milk sold online contains cow’s milk

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You can buy just about anything online, even human breast milk. But buyer beware. A new study found cow's milk in some samples purchased online.

A donor makes a delivery to the Heart of America Mothers' Milk Bank at Saint Luke's Hospital. All donors have been screened. The milk is pasteurized, tested for safety and then fed to babies whose mothers can't supply enough. Twins Dexter and Daelyn McCrea are receiving some after being born prematurely last week.

"It's hard for me to produce milk for two babies, so having the donor breast milk just gives me such peace of mind that I don't have to try so hard," said their mother, Amber McCrea.

Most of the milk donated here and at 17 other banks in the U.S. goes to babies in hospitals, leaving little for babies not in the hospital.

"Extremely limited supply available for outpatient use," said Dr. Barbara Carr, medical director of the milk bank.

She knows that's one reason why online sales of breast milk are booming. Parents and others are turning to the internet to buy the milk from individuals they don't know.

Researchers looked at more than a hundred samples they purchased online, and found it wasn't all human milk. Eleven percent contained cow's milk, or milk-based formula powder, which can harm babies who have a cow's milk allergy or intolerance.

"I think this is incredibly concerning and not surprising. Any time you introduce a profit motive, any time you introduce money into the sale of breast milk, it increases the potential for people to adulterate that milk," said Dr. Carr.

Another study from 2013 found breast milk sold online had disease-causing bacteria in it. Dr. Carr says efforts are needed to decrease the likelihood that moms will shop the internet for milk. She says that means increased support of breastfeeding so moms can supply their own babies, and also more donors at breast milk banks. For more on donation, go to this link.

The study is in the journal Pediatrics. Dr. Carr says some online ads claim that the milk is "milk bank certified." She says the Human Milk Banking Association of North America has no such certification program.