Wednesday, April 25, 2012

USDA says cow's milk doesn't transmit BSE, is it time to review HMBANA guidelines for human milk donation?

In the wake of the latest case of BSE to be found in a dairy cow, the USDA is rushing to reassure US residents of the safety cow's milk, citing WHO research that says bovine milk doesn't transmit BSE.

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.

USDA confirms 4th mad cow case in US

updated 4/24/2012 4:05:14 PM ET
The first new case of mad cow disease in the U.S. since 2006 has been discovered in a dairy cow in California, but health authorities said Tuesday the animal never was a threat to the nation's food supply.
    The infected cow, the fourth ever discovered in the U.S., was found as part of anAgriculture Department surveillance program that tests about 40,000 cows a year for the fatal brain disease.
    No meat from the cow was bound for the food supply, said John Clifford, the department's chief veterinary officer.
    "There is really no cause for alarm here with regard to this animal," Clifford told reporters at a hastily convened press conference.
    Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is fatal to cows and can cause a fatal human brain disease in people who eat tainted beef. The World Health Organization has said that tests show that humans cannot be infected by drinking milk from BSE-infected animals.