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Researchers find dangerous bacteria in breast milk sold online

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The ads read fresh, organic and available now. Women and men are buying, selling and donating breast milk online.

"The types of infections that they're finding in this milk that was ordered online are things that could really cause life threatening situations or even death in babies," said Dr. Stephen Pont, with the Dell Children's Medical Center. "So many things can go wrong when you're ordering breast milk online, it's really frightening.

A team of researchers recently published the findings of a breast milk study in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The doctors collected 101 samples from milk-sharing web sites, recording the sellers' claims about their own health and methods of handling and storage. Then they analyzed the bacterial content in the samples, comparing them with unpasteurized breast milk from screened donors at banks.

"We create clean rooms in order to process the milk and we scrub in very similarly to what you would do if you were to scrub in for surgery," said Kim Updegrove, with the Mothers' Milk Bank of Austin. "Our screening criteria for approving donors is very similar to what you would go through for donating your blood,"


The researchers found that 64 percent of the samples from milk-sharing sites were contaminated with staph, 36 percent with strep and almost three-quarters with other bacteria. Three of the samples contained salmonella. Seventy-four percent of the samples would have failed milk bank criteria.

The unpasteurized milk bank samples were not entirely free of contamination either, but they were considerably cleaner than those from the online milk-sharers.

Kim said, "It will still be risky. It will still be playing Russian roulette with your child."

She says no milk bank baby has ever become ill because of contaminated milk.

"The milk is pasteurized, tested once more, microbiologically, frozen and labeled and awaits dispensing," said Kim.

The demand for breast milk is much higher than the supply...and the web-sharing networks say they're filling that void.

Doctors warn even if you're getting breast milk from a trusted friend or relative, they might not remember or feel comfortable telling you about all the medications they take.

If you're not 100 percent sure what's in the milk, medical professionals say don't give it to your baby.

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