JAKARTA, March 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The sale of
breast milk from Cambodian women by a U.S. firm is a form of
exploitation, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF said on
Wednesday, after reports the Phnom Penh government had suspended
exports of the milk.
The Cambodian government this week temporarily banned
exports by Utah-based Ambrosia Labs, which collects breast milk
from Cambodian women to be sold in the United States, according
to the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.
Ambrosia Labs claims to be the first company to make breast
milk produced overseas commercially available in the United
States and says this provides an income opportunity for women in
Cambodia whose own babies are older than six months old.
The suspension came amid fears that local children's
nutritional needs were being compromised, the daily reported,
and with health officials needing to determine if human milk
should be treated in the same category as human organs.
UNICEF said it opposed the sale of breast milk from Cambodia
where malnutrition remains a threat to children in the
impoverished Southeast Asian nation of 15 million people.
"Breast milk banks should not be operated by exploiting
vulnerable and poor Cambodian women for profit and commercial
purposes," UNICEF's Cambodia spokeswoman Iman Morooka said in a
"Breast milk could be considered as human tissue, the same
as blood, and as such its commercialisation in Cambodia should
not be supported."
Ambrosia Labs and the Cambodia's Women Ministry did not
immediately reply to request for comment.
But Ambrosia Labs founder Bronzson Woods was quoted in local
media as saying the firm only collects breast milk from mothers
who have breastfed their children for at least six months.
On its website, the company said it was committed to
"empowering" women who sell breast milk and ending the global
shortage of human milk. It said it had measures in place to
ensure the women and their children stay healthy.
"Breastfeeding is hard work and women should have the option
to be recognised financially for the valuable milk that they can
provide," according to the company's website, which says the
milk is sold at $20 for 5oz (148 ml).
UNICEF said any breast milk bank programmes should only be
designed to help at-risk children inside the country, not for
The World Health Organization recommends that babies be
breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life and then
given breast milk along with other food until they are two years
(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Katie Nguyen and
Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation,
the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)