Monday, 31 October 2011

News Brief: Online sales of breast milk unsafe, illegal --DOH

Two Taipei City councilors held a press conference yesterday at which they announced the results of checks undertaken on mother’s milk bought online. Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華) and Li Jian-chang (李建昌) said the four packets of milk sent to the Taipei City Hospital (臺北市立聯合醫院) had not complied with the hospital’s own standards, and they called on the city's Department of Health (衛生局) to ban such website trade and called on those dealing in breast milk to withdraw their products from sale, the Liberty Times reported (full Chinese-language article here)

Hsu said that the “health check” certificates posted on the internet auction sites with offers for 200cc bags of mother’s milk from as little as NT$40 to suggest the product is safe were, in fact, worthless. The equipment used, facilities and environment could all create conditions in which germs could breed, she said.

Hsu said she bought four bags of milk from someone online on October 19th, two bags that had been freshly collected that day and two from October 17th that had been frozen. She also froze the milk within 5 minutes of receiving it, and then sent them to the hospital for examination.

Announcing the results yesterday, Hsu and Li said all four bags of milk failed to meet standards as they contained gram-negative bacteria (革蘭氏陰性菌). Taipei’s Department of Health said gram-negative bacteria can ruin baby food, cause septicemia, and even lead to infant death.

Li said that the US Centers for Disease Control had issued a statement saying mother’s milk should be viewed as a form of body fluid. If babies drank milk that was not from their own mother or had not been screened, they could be infected by diseases, medicinal drugs or even narcotics in the milk. 

Department of Health (衛生署) Vice Minister Hsiao Mei-ling (蕭美玲) said that breast milk was of a special nature and was therefore different from general types of food products. The central government was still considering whether it should be regulated under the “Act Governing Food Sanitation” (用食品衛生管理法). For the time being it would be controlled by the Consumer Protection Act” (消保法), which required dealers to remove products from Internet auction sites. Sites should also take down webpages displaying breast milk for sale, otherwise the consumer protection authorities could use these laws to impose fines up to NT$300,000 (ca. US$10,000). 

                                                             Text and photos © Jiyue Publications 2011

1 comment:

  1. great information!
    according to what i found online, apparently children fed by the same wet nurse are "milk siblings," and Wikipedia even says the Koran forbids marriages between milk siblings?!
    i wonder if that's true.

    another US website says that since breast milk is a body fluid, it could transmit HIV/AIDS.