The findings of a new study have now revealed that around 11% of breast milk samples purchased online were contaminated with cow’s milk, and the concentration of cow’s milk was so high in all of these samples, that it could easily be ruled off as intentional adulteration.
“Cow’s milk can be problematic for infants with allergy or intolerance,” the researchers say. “Because buyers cannot verify the composition of milk they purchase, all should be aware that it might be adulterated with cow’s milk. Pediatricians should be aware of the online market for human milk and the potential risks.”
The researchers had also previously found that 74% of milk samples purchased from the internet were contaminated with pathogenic bacteria that could pose a risk to preterm babies or those who are medically compromised.
The market for human milk is growing, but these findings suggest that parents must reflect upon their choices before purchasing milk from such sources. Breast milk available online seemed to be the best choice for women who weren’t able to produce enough milk for their babies, and the babies that refused to formula feed.
The researchers also point out to the fact that internet sales of breast milk tend to insert a sales motive in their transaction, and start to increase the volume of milk they have by adding cow’s milk or milk based formula.
The researchers made use of mitochondrial DNA to detect bovine and human DNA in around 102 milk samples that they purchased from the internet. They also used control mixtures to estimate the proportion of cow’s milk present in the samples.
They found that 11 out of the 102 samples contained a mixture of human and cow DNA, and 10 of these contained clearly high levels of cow’s milk to suggest deliberate contamination.
The researchers conclude “Our findings confirm the previously theoretical risk that human milk being sold via the Internet may not be 100% human milk. Because buyers have little means to verify the composition of the milk they receive, all should be aware of the possibility that it may be adulterated.”