Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bovine colostrum marketers - modern 'snake oil' salesmen?

The term "snake oil salesman" has become so ubiquitous, most of us don't really even think about how it came about. We're a long way from the days when travelling hucksters crossed the continent peddling secret formulas for dubious supplements designed to cure all that ailed us.
Travelling "snake oil" salesman.


Or are we?

The modern version of the snake oil salesman is alive and well and living on the Internet. Fronted by "non-profit" entities, these folks will sell you pills, recipes, cookbooks, lifestyle plans, all sorts of cures for what ails the modern man, woman, and child.

It's not illegal to push a lot of these products, and they often pose more of a hazard to your pocketbook than your  health. Caveat emptor. But some products can pose a hazard to human health.

Last week we had headlines warning families against the purchasing of human milk from anonymous sources via the Internet. "Moms beware..."  "Dangerous bacteria..." "Breast milk sold online may have harmful bacteria..." blared the headlines. (See my blog post "Something smells off and it's not the milk."

This week we have a helpful not-for-profit organization with the "vital health news" that donor breast milk is "contaminated." The CDC says so! (Not.) Oh no! But wait, there's more. Bovine colostrum to the rescue! You don't have to buy that dangerous, icky, filthy human milk. You can purchase quality cow colostrum for your baby!

Product sales website warning of "New CDC Research showing "contaminated" donor breast milk.
Our regulatory agencies have spent quite a bit of energy warning families of the dangers of feeding their babies human milk that is not obtained from milk banks.

These same bodies govern how infant formula is manufactured. In 81 countries around the world of there are outright laws preventing the marketing of products like this. In North America our health authorities have declined to ban the marketing of these products, but they have asserted their regulatory authority over the kinds of ingredients that can be included in breast milk substitutes, and they monitor the manufacturing of infant formula to try to keep dangerous pathogens from harming newborn infants.

The FDA was pretty quick to warn families about milksharing and the concerns about of the anonymous purchase of human milk when the practices first hit mainstream news. But it provided no guidelines to help families reduce their risk - they just said nope, don't do it, even though they don't actually regulate the donation or sale of human milk. (They considered it in 2010, and the study that generated the headlines above has called for the FDA to consider their research in any future discussions on regulation.)
Emma Kwasnica, founder of HM4HB,
wet-nursing her the child of a friend
hospitalized for a health emergency.
Peer-to-peer milksharing
networks drew warnings from
Health Canada, the FDA, and
France's health authority when they
became popular 3 years ago.

So, the question is, how fast will the FDA jump to warn consumers about the dangers of using this product as a substitute for mother's own milk? China has banned bovine colostrum as an ingredient in infant formula. Will the FDA move to bring this product into compliance with its rules?

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