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Human, With a Dash of Cow

A number of milk samples bought online purporting to be human breast milk include cow DNA, according to an analysis performed by Ohio State University's Jesse Kwiek and his colleagues. Such buying and selling online of breast milk is on the rise, the Los Angeles Times notes, even as the US Food and Drug Administration recommends against the practice.

"People feel a lot of pressure to breast-feed and guilt and disappointment if they are not successful," first author Sarah Keim tells the LA Times. "I think that is underlying a lot of the demand for milk online." 

As they report in Pediatrics, the researchers anonymously ordered 102 samples advertised online as human milk. While all of the samples did contain human DNA, as determined through PCR analysis of mitochondrial DA, 10 samples also contained DNA from cows at levels the researchers deemed too high to be due to accidental contamination. Instead, they posit that cow's milk products were deliberately added.

The LA Times notes that previous work from Kwiek, Keim, and their colleagues had also found breast milk bought online was often contaminated with Gram-negative bacteria.

"I feel for women who desperately want to feed their babies breast milk, but they have no way to know it is safe," Keim adds.