Food Innovation Center

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FIC Member Sarah Keim Finds Some Breast Milk Sold Online Was Mixed with Cow's Milk

Sarah KeimFIC member Dr. Sarah Keim, researcher at Nationwide Children's Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, has found some interesting results in breast milk samples purchased over the Internet. Keim and her team bought breast milk from 102 online sellers and found that 11 samples had evidence of cow’s milk. Ten of those samples appeared to contain at least 10 percent cow’s milk, which ruled out minor contamination. 

Diluting breast milk with cow’s milk, or substituting it entirely, would be especially troublesome for children who are allergic to or can’t digest cow’s milk.

Many moms who go online looking for breast milk from elsewhere are doing so because their babies can’t tolerate cow’s milk or formula made with it, said Sarah Keim, the researcher who led the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Earlier work by Keim and her group found that 75 percent of those same milk purchases were contaminated by bacteria, including coliforms, which are found in human and animal feces. That same study found that about 20 percent of the samples contained a respiratory virus especially harmful to premature babies.

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Sarah A. Keim, MA, MS, PhD is a principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in The Ohio State University College of Medicine and of Epidemiology in the College of Public Health.