A trendy London ice cream parlor introduced a new treat last Friday – ice cream made from human breast milk.
“The Icecreamists, a trendy ice cream parlor, says its “Baby Gaga” ice cream sold out as soon as it launched Friday.”
“The company paid women who donated their breast milk after a health screening. The milk is then pasteurized and churned together with vanilla pods and lemon zest. The dish, which comes in a martini glass, sells for 14 pounds ($22.50) each.”
“Matt O’Connor, who owns the company, says the product is ‘organic, free-range and totally natural.’ ”
“The Food Standards Agency says there are no specific laws prohibiting businesses from selling human milk products, although they must comply with general food safety laws to ensure the product is safe for consumption.”
The case reminded me of the Eats on Feets campaign, which started out on Facebook after a breastfeeding mother sought ways to put her surplus milk to use. Teaming up with a like-minded activist, the movement has spread — and now includes Antarctica, according to the EoF Facebook page. Emma Kwasnica, one of the women behind Eats on Feets, was interviewed by NPR member station KOPN — for its Momma Rap program. (click “Podcasts” to hear the interview
The U.S. FDA is a bit leery of using “donor human milk.” On its website, it explains why:
“Risks for the baby include exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV, to chemical contaminants, such as some illegal drugs, and to a limited number of prescription drugs that might be in the human milk, if the donor has not been adequately screened. In addition, if human milk is not handled and stored properly, it could, like any type of milk, become contaminated and unsafe to drink.”
“Still, the FDA isn’t categorically against sharing breastmilk. It points people to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America as a good source of information and possible contacts.”
In fact the Human Milk Banking Association of North America is currently seeking milk donors to help medically fragile infants.
“February 11, 2011 ALERT
Milk Donors are URGENTLY NEEDED. If you have extra milk, please contact your nearest HMBANA milk bank. HMBANA milk banks process donated human milk primarily for fragile and vulnerable infants to ensure they have an adequate and safe supply of this life-giving and life-sustaining supplement when mother’s own milk is not available.
- Setting the Standards for Human Milk Banking
- Meeting the Milk Banking Needs for North America
- A Safe Alternative in the Absence of Infant’s Own Mother’s Milk”
“HMBANA is a non-profit association of donor human milk banks established in 1985 to set standards for and to facilitate establishment and operation of milk banks in North America. This website provides information on milk banking and how to contact a milk bank to donate milk or to order donor human milk. This site is also a resource for health care providers and others seeking information on HMBANA’s resources and services. “
On January 20, 2011, U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin released The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Action 12 states, “Identify and address obstacles to greater availability of safe banked donor milk for fragile infants.”
The FDA Pediatric Advisory Committee endorsed donor human milk banking and deemed informal sharing of human milk to be unsafe. On December 6, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Pediatric Therapeutics convened a meeting of national experts, including directors of two HMBANA milk banks, to discuss the safety, ethics, and regulatory implications of donor human milk. See meeting agenda, briefing materials, and minutes on FDA website.”
This is really two separate issues that I have thrown together here because the ice cream made a great introduction to the topic:
Issue No. 1: Would you as an adult or child (not an infant) eat a product made from breast milk?
Issue No. 2: Would you share your breast milk with a breast milk bank for medically fragile infants who need the milk to grow strong? Would you approve of other nursing mothers sharing their supply with other infants who need it?
In both instances the milk would be pasteurized and checked to make sure it does not contain disease (such as HIV). (I think it is a different case for a mom to pop someone’s else’s infant onto their boob and nurse them.)
I don’t think I personally would be into eating breast milk ice cream. I guess I just don’t see the point and think that breast milk could go to medically fragile infants instead of gourmet ice cream. (I have tasted my breast milk before when I was afraid a bottle had gone bad – turned a funny color. It just tasted sweet, which is what you always hear.)
I actually looked into donating breast milk when I was nursing my first child. The lactation consultant at Piedmont talked about but I couldn’t find where I could donate. I think it’s a great cause and it’s hard to pump a lot of milk so if a woman can do it’s truly a treasure. (Julie Duncan, the head of perinatal education and a lactation consultant at Piedmont Hospital, used to say breast milk is liquid gold!)
If for some reason I couldn’t nurse and had a medically fragile child I would absolutely try to get breast milk from a bank for my child.
So what do you think: Would you eat the ice cream?
Would you bank your milk to help other babies? Are you grossed out by babies drinking breast milk not from their mothers? (What if they don’t have mothers?)