At a time when the donor human milk banks are pleading for donors citing shortage due to increased demand from NICUs for donor human milk, should there be an urgent review of human milk banking guidelines that exclude potential milk donors due to concerns about prion transmission? HMBANA says donors are not suitable if they have been "in the United Kingdom for more than 3 months or in Europe for more than 5 years since 1980." It's not clear on HMBANA's website, but that restriction is due to concern about prion disease transmission via human milk.
UK and EU moms can and do donate to their own milk banks -- they wouldn't have any donor human milk if this restriction were applied in their own countries. And yet we would reject their milk if they moved to the US or Canada.
I have heard donor milk bank representatives say the number is small and not a big contributor to their donor shortage, but we don't really have any idea how many potential donors are rejected, or don't even bother to apply to donate due to this restriction.
Why not lift it?
I don't think this guideline gives US and Canadian donors or recipients much confidence in HMBANA. I think it just makes milk banks look a little silly to savvy lactating moms who learn of the contradiction.
Worse, it contributes to the notion that human milk is dangerously disease-ridden.