Black Market Human Milk Being Bought by the Bag in Beijing
Would you feed your newborn milk from an udder, er, other mother? An increasing number of Chinese mothers are opting for exactly that, courtesy of the Internet.
Shocked by a series of tainted milk scandals that sickened 300,000 infants last year, more and more mothers are forgoing issues of time and convenience by breast-feeding their children. According to a report conducted by Shanghai Municipal Health Bureau, the breastfeeding rate among Chinese mothers was just 64 percent in 2002 but by May of this year, had risen to 89 percent in the city of Shanghai.
Many women can't fill their babies' nutritional needs on their own but luckily, help is just a mouse click away! At popular Chinese shopping websites such as Taobao.com (cached ad at top of page), a steady stream of listings from mothers offering deals on their “excessive milk” ensure that buyers and sellers can easily hook up to complete human milk transactions locally.
Shipping or mailing refrigerated or frozen human milk is less common due to concerns about freshness. Human milk offered through online ads is typically sold in special 100-milliliter storage bags with prices in the RMB39 (US$6) to RMB100 (US$15) range.
The trade in human milk has caught the attention of China's governing authorities, already stung by previous food scandals and alarmed by media reports of a “black market” in human milk. In response, China's Ministry of Health has introduced a new regulation which categorizes human milk as a “special food source” that cannot be treated as a salable commodity. The main effect of the regulation is that many of the ads at Chinese online malls have been pulled but some still show up at online parenting forums.
All the regulations in the world can't address the root issue: some Chinese mothers prefer to feed their babies human milk and others have an over-supply of this unique product. In many cases money isn't the prime motivation – to quote one mother from Shanghai, “We don't need that money to live on. We just didn't want to see precious milk going down the drain.” (via Want China Times, WSJ, and What's On Xiamen)