Tuesday, December 10, 2013
"Propaganda becomes ineffective the moment we are aware of it."
The definition of social marketing at a CDC website is, "the application of commercial marketing technologies to analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation of programs designed to influence voluntary behavior of target audiences in order to imporve their personal welfare and that of society." The CDC should know the definition since they budget and employ people to influence people to vaccinate, use condoms, get tested for hiv/aids, etc. They enlist mommy bloggers, just like the infant formula industry enlists mommy bloggers to market their products.
Propaganda is defined, "as the deliberate, systemic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist." by Jowett & O'Donnell
It seems we are living in times, where every health organization and many non-profits employ media specialists to socially market their interests or their products. I remember back in the 1990s attending a breastfeeding conference and one of the sessions was on socially marketing breastfeeding. I walked out about half-way. I probably should have stayed and listened but I couldn't get past the thought that what they were really talking about was propaganda. It's the only time I have ever walked out of a session in a Conference. I look back and think who would have believed that so many organizations have embraced social marketing/social media. The concerns I had back then have not changed. The major concern was that social marketing is governed by the supposed truths of an organization. Organizations are run by individuals who don't necessarily have a direct line to the "truth." In fact no one has a direct line to the truth because we are human. We, humans, often have no idea how others live, their cultures, their needs. We, humans, can only see our needs. Improving someone else's welfare is a tricky business and often social marketing does not account for the many factors of why people do what they do. Social marketing is dependent on who runs the organizations and their agendas, and this does not necessarily equate to the common good.
Over the years, I have watched the social marketing of donor milk banking and been rather perturbed over it. The number of not-for-profit milk banks in the USA and globally has expanded. We even have two for-profit milk banks in the USA (although the person who founded Prolacta also started Medolac). This expansion of donor milk banking has coincided with the growth of the breast pump/bottle industry. One sort of piggy-backing on the other. More and more women believing that breastfeeding requires the purchase of pumps and bottles. Many women trying to breastfeed but finding it next to impossible to maintain. Of course it also coincides with more and more women with young babies in the workplace (with little time-off or social/financial support for staying home). In the USA, we are witnessing an increase of preterm birth and better survival of these tiny babies.
This merging of events seems to have created a steady need for more and more donor milk. The not-for-profit milk banks in the past have complained about Prolacta Bioscience (the for profit milk bank)competing against them and impacting donations to their not-for profit banks. In more recent times HMBANA has publicly complained about informal milk sharing on the internet. The target seems to be Eats on Feets and strangely enough not the other internet milk sharing service called HM4HB (Human Milk for Human Babies). Not sure why one organization is the target, because it appears to me that some of the same people that are involved with the one organization are also involved in the other organization. But maybe I misread the internet stories and news, and maybe a lot of it is the masks and mirrors of social marketing.
As I have written before HMBANA has wanted regulation of "informal milk sharing on the internet." This was stated in 1999 on Lactnet by Mary Rose Tully who at that time was the Chair of HMBANA, when it appeared that there was a web page milk exchange going on. In 2000 she met with the FDA and again expressed her concern about "informal milk sharing on the internet." Knowing this, makes it very surprising that HM4HB seemed so willing to advertise the need for donor milk by non-profit milk banks on their websites. But then maybe these groups did not understand that since 1999, HMBANA has wanted internet milk sharing stopped. Back in 2010, I was concerned that HM4HB was not really a grassroots organization but astroturf (from Sourcewatch-astroturf refers to apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created, or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms). I was told by their 300 or so administrators that I was totally wrong about my concerns.http://vwmcclain.blogspot.com/2011/07/is-hm4hb-grassroots-organization-or.html
I find myself once again wondering about internet milk sharing organizations. Why is their petition on the web only directed at the one bill and not at the bill regarding licensing of milk banks? The bill on licensing milk banks appears to be directed at anyone who attempts a milk banking service (which in my mind means it is directed at stopping internet service organizations like Eats on Feets and HM4HB) Why would a petition signed by people of all different countries make NJ legislators rethink this bill? Legislators mostly care about their constituents (voters in New Jersey) and wouldn't really care what someone from another country thinks. Its rather amazing to watch how many people signed this petition within a short period of time.
It will be interesting to see what happens next in the world of social media. One would think that the NJ Department of Health would be more interested in stopping internet milk selling rather than internet milk sharing. Obviously people selling human milk are not going to report it on their income tax. But you know the reality is that we don't know the actual statistics of how much human milk is being shared or sold on the internet. So we have to believe in the truth of the internet, that this has become a booming business/service in need of curtailing. Funny thing is I just read an abstract from the JHL entitled, "Donor Human Milk Bank Data Collection in North America," by Brownell, et al. (10-28-13). The study concluded (according to the abstract), "Without standardized data across all HMBANA sites, the creation of a centralized data repository is not yet feasible. Lack of standardization and transparency may deter implementation of donor milk programs in the neonatal intensive care unit setting and hinder benchmarking, research, and quality improvement initiatives." I kind of laughed because I was amazed they got any data from HMBANA milk banks (only 8 out of 13 sites consented to participate). Basically we don't know donor demographics to milk banks. We don't know some basic information about donor milk banking or internet milk sharing or internet milk selling. And yet, here we are creating bills with little background information on how much of this is really going on nor do we know the demographics of women who donate to non-profit milk banks.
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain
*In December 2010 the FDA Working Group held meetings on Banked Human Milk. I was amazed that the FDA stated that they just had been made aware of a large scale human milk company, Prolacta Bioscience. The company was launched in 2001. So we have a company that is making human milk products for preterm infants, and the FDA in 2010 just became aware of it. Fascinating.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Indeed, who shall control a world's natural resource, human milk? Women? The US Department of Health? HMBANA (the North American non-profit milk banking organization)? Prolacta Bioscience or Medolac (the US for-profit milk banks)? And what about the global internet milk sharing organizations like Eats on Feets or HM4HB (Human Milk for Human Babies)? What role does the internet milk sharing organizations play in the battle for human milk? Are women selling their milk through the internet (which is not what the internet milk sharing organizations are about)? And how is this struggle for control tied to the social marketing of donor milk?
I cannot answer all these questions because sometimes we don't know the truth of a matter until much later in time. Events aren't always clear as they are happening. And even when we have the grace of retrospection, we can be blind by our own prejudices. In a society governed by the profit motive and the need to own and control a resource, there is a blindness to the reality that nothing ultimately can really be owned. That natural resources are a gift to all the people on this earth. They are here to be shared not to be squandered, pillaged, and raped by corporate or individual greed.
Recently, it has come to my attention that New Jersey Assemblywoman, Pamela R. Lampitt has introduced two bills to the New Jersey Assembly. Assembly Bill 3703 which provides licensure of human milk banks and Assembly Bill 3702 which establishes a "public awareness campaign advising pregnant women, new parents, and women who are breastfeeding about dangers of casual milk sharing." (November 25, 2013 reported out of Committee, 2nd reading)
Part of the proposed bill is on licensure of human milk banks, "Any person who operates a human milk bank that does not have a license, or who has used fraud or misrepresentation in obtaining a license or in the subsequent operation of a human milk bank, or who offers, advertise, or provides any service not authorized by a valid license, or who violates any other provision of this act shall be subject to a penalty of not less than $100 or more than $1000..." I was told that this penalty is not directed at mothers sharing human milk but directed at human milk banks. Curious to me. Since I don't think too many people or persons are starting up human milk banks in New Jersey. And having recently read a slew of media reports on how the "booming demand for donated breast milk raises safety issues," with interviews of people involved with HMBANA and people involved with internet milk sharing organizations; I found myself rather curious about the reason for this legislation. So how is human milk banking defined in this legislation? It is defined as, "an organized service for the selection of a donor and the collection, processing, storage, and distribution of donated human breast milk to a hospital for use by low birth weight babies or new mothers with delayed lactation, or directly to a parent, with a physician's prescription order, who is unable to nurse, or is in need of additional breast milk to feed, the parent's child." Is it possible that this definition might encompass the services of internet milk sharing organizations? A recent article in the New Jersey spotlight entitled, "Websites for sharing breast milk raise concerns about health risks by Andrew Kitchenman (December 2, 2013) interviews Dr. Sharon Mass, chairwoman of the New Jersey chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The author writes, "However Mass said, women should use milk from licensed milk banks instead of using the unregulated milk-sharing sites. 'if it's not regulated and it's not licensed, then we have no idea about the quality or safety of that milk,' said Mass, ACOG's representative to the United States Breastfeeding Committee.
Kim Updegrove, President of HMBANA, "would like the government to simply, outlaw the internet milk trade. This would steer would-be donors to the milk banks..." This was stated in an interview on NPR, All Things Considered, November 27, 2013. There has been this amazing amount of articles in November (from various places in the USA) reporting on the one study done in which "bought" human milk over the internet was "supposedly" contaminated with bacteria. This study was done by at least one researcher from the HMBANA organization. Which one might be concerned that there might be a level of bias in this particular study. HMBANA has since the year 2000 (letter to FDA) stated that they want internet milk sharing/selling to be stopped. I had not realized that there was internet milk sharing/selling back in the year 2000--other than some men having a fetish for human milk and wanting to buy some. I also know that human milk researchers advertise in the media for human milk and pay for it. But some human milk researchers (who are often funded by the infant formula industry) get donor milk from HMBANA (one of the organization's mission statements is promotion of research of human milk). In years past HMBANA's advisory board was often human milk researchers who were funded by the infant formula industry. I brought this up a number of times to breastfeeding advocates and the response was a lack of concern or the ever-endearing dead silence. I think having researchers who are funded by the infant formula industry sitting in advisory boards to human milk banks is mighty short-sighted. But I guess I am the only one who feels that way since there has never been a protest over this common practice.
I think it is a rather sorry state of affairs when donor milk banks feel the need to use the media to broadcast research that is dubious, that donor milk is disease-ridden, etc. It plays quite nicely into the hands of the infant formula industry. And is very destructive to creating a breastfeeding society. On the other hand I cannot support internet milk sharing organizations because the internet is just not community. I support milk sharing with mothers who live in close proximity to each other. Sharing locally or even selling locally makes more sense to me than believing that we truly know someone over the internet. So I stand in the middle of what I perceive to be a war over a resource, human milk. We have over 2000 US patents and applications on human milk components (some owned by the US Department of Health). Many of those patents are owned by the infant formula industry, some by medical colleges who will license their inventions to companies, some by for-profit milk banks, and some by the pharmaceutical industry. Is this really about the danger of a substance in the hands of private citizens? Or is this about a battle over the ownership of a natural resource? Frankly, I saw this coming back some years ago, I pleaded to be listened to, that something needed to be done. Silence and more silence has been the overall response. If this bill passes and becomes law, we will have a social marketing campaign by the NJ Department of Health telling mothers how disease-ridden and toxic donor milk is if shared or purchased by anyone but the State regulated milk banks. How will we ever get women to breastfeed once they believe that the milk they produce and are willing to share freely is just some diseased and toxic substance, unworthy of consumption? The fact is that human milk contains many treasured substances, one being stem cells with supposedly magical properties, magic bullets (as male researchers like to say because they target organs without damaging them--very important in cancer therapies). Is this a legal battle of keeping the public safe? Or is this about control of a natural resource?
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I woke up this morning to the gentle sound of rain, another day in paradise. So I turned to the internet for my morning entertainment. Lo and behold, there before my early morning blurry eyes is a story from channel 9 news in Orlando. The headline is, "9 Investigates black market breast milk sales." What a way to wake up, when ya live in the land of Disney. Hm, I didn't know it was illegal to share human milk. A black market would mean something illegal was going on, right? When I think of black market, I think of criminal activity, usually involving drugs or weapons. The article is worth reading to understand how the media is used to socially market new concepts to the public.
I never knew we had a black market in human milk until now and right here in Paradise--Orlando no less. Our reporter, just back from her maternity leave has an interest in this topic. Not sure how she found out about it but knowing that Orlando just opened its first not-for profit milk bank makes me think that maybe that news lead to this. Anyway she buys some breast milk through the internet. It is selling for $1 or $2 per ounce. She buys 110 ounces from 4 different persons. Then she mails it to researchers at Boston College in Massachusetts to have it tested. It just so happens she has had contact with the reseacher Dr. Sarah Keim who just did a study on "unregulated black market human milk... which had high levels of bacteria or certain disease-causing bacteria like the kind you find in human waste." Surprisingly, the samples the Orlando reporter sent to Boston College had similar findings.
Of interest to my readers is that it just so happens that the researcher they contacted from Boston College is Dr. David Newburg. He was described as a biology professor and director of the Glyco-biology program at Boston College. Funny how they neglected to tell readers that he is also a co-inventor to over 10 US human milk component patents and applications, co-founder of a company called Glycosyn LLC. This company was founded by 2 other researchers, Ardythe Morrow of Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation, and Guillermo Ruiz-Palacios of the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion of Mexico. All 3 are co-inventors to several patents like patent #8314061 entitled, "Adiponectin for treatment of various disorders." Which may be used in infant formula.
The very first human milk component patent I ever saw was one in which Newburg co-invented. It was filed in 1995 and was about human milk fat globule which would be used to treat diarrhea particularly diarrhea in immune-compromised patients like those with hiv/aids. There is a second one filed in 1996 and these patents are co-owned by John Hopkins Medical School.
This research has been funded by the NIH (National Institute of Health). The Cinncinati Children's Hospital Medical Center, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion licensed this technology to Glycosyn. The company offers 6 different products.http://www.glycosyninc.com/products,3.html
They are also collaborating with Grameen to "introduce, manufacture and distribute Glycosyn's products for the prevention and treatment of diarrhea throughout Bangladesh.
Dr. David S. Newburgh is also on the Board at a HMBANA milk bank, Mothers Milk Bank Northeast. He has many accomplishments. But I have numerous questions about this investigation by channel 9 news in Orlando. Who paid for the milk (and the shipping and the testing?) that was bought through this so-called black market? The reporter? The news agency? Dr. David S. Newburgh who was the recipient of this milk? What was done with this milk? Thrown out after checking for bacteria? Used in research? Interesting the timing of this article and how it supposedly confirms the recent study done by Dr. Sarah Keim.
Glycosyn states that it was founded to commercialize discoveries in which it was found that "natural, anti-infective components (glycans) in human breast milk demonstrate significant protection against diarrhea." This is a biotech company and almost all the patents are about genetically engineering the human milk component. Will more babies breastfed? Or will we committ more money and resources to sell products that interfere with breastfeeding. While we can genetically engineer them, does the public understand how these products are made? I remember when I first became an IBCLC and learned this statistic: approximately 1.5 million infants die around the world (including the US) because they are not breastfed. They die from diarrhea and dehydration. And that statistic has not changed. Do we need more products to treat the problem which is lack of breastfeeding? Or do we need more nations investing in actively supporting mothers to breastfeed?
What do the donor milk banks want? Quite simply they seem to want women donating their milk to their milk banks only. In the contest for a natural resource, what will be done or said? Who wins? No one wins in this situation. Who owns your breast milk? Why are moms giving it away at $1 or $2 an ounce? And who wins when the public starts to believe there is a black market in human milk? Will the real black market please stand up? And I'll tell ya now it ain't mom and pop selling it in Orlando.
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain
Monday, November 11, 2013
I wrote a position paper for AnotherLook entitled "Patents, Breastfeeding and HIV," in 2001. http://www.anotherlook.org/papers/c/english.pdf It was all about the patents at the US Patent Office that were using various human milk components to inactivate hiv. The infant formula, food, supplement, drug and vaccine industries, educational and governmental institutions have patented various human milk components to treat or inactivate hiv. Those components have been: Lactoferrin, HMFG (Human Milk Fat Globule), HMO (Human Milk Oligosaccharides), etc. So now they have found this Tenascin C and hope to create a drug (according to this particular article). In Health News the lead author of this study, Dr. Sallie Permar says they hope to create
a vaccine to "eliminate mother-to-child transmission."
I found myself reading the articles and shaking my head. This is what Dr. Sallie Permar says according to Health News regarding the statement, "But only one in 10 HIV-infected nursing mothers is known to pass the virus to their infants." She says, "That is remarkable, because nursing children are exposed multiple times each day during their first year of life." Now the other article from the Smithsonian states that, "Only 10-20 percent of infants who are breastfed by infected mothers catch the virus."
Here it is 2013 and the statistics for transmission of hiv through breastmilk still vary enormously depending on the article you read. So some 80-90% of supposedly infected mothers do not transmit hiv through breastfeeding, right?? And some scientists have known that various components of human milk prevent or inactivate hiv. The CDC does not recomment breastfeeding for hiv-positive mothers because "baby formula is a safe alternative for U.S.-born infants." (article from healthcanal.com-health news). Tell that to moms in the USA whose babies died from Enterobacter sakazakii that had contaminated infant formula in 2011.
What were the studies on hiv transmission that health authorities accept? Over and over again it has been a study submitted to the Lancet in 1992 by Dunn et al. in which it is estimated that hiv transmission through breastfeeding is 14%. This study set public health policy. And paved the way for world-wide policies of encouraging the use of infant formula and discouraging breastfeeding. Although I would say that discouragement may not be the proper term. It was far more drastic in the US in that it became a forced policy in which Child Protective Services were used to enforce compliance of infant formula feeding. What happened during these years is that slowly world health officials began to recognize in developing nations that babies of hiv positive mothers were dying not from hiv/aids but from the risks of infant formula (diarrhea/dehydration, unsanitary conditions in which to prepare infant formula, lack of ability to pay for infant formula--watering it down, feeding other unsuitable foods). It became a public health disaster http://www.cfr.org/world/garrett-botswanas-infant-formula-debacle/p14050
There is the belief that in some areas of the US, the conditions of poverty are close to some areas in developing nations. When I worked for the WIC Program from 1994-1998, I worked with women and their babies who lived in their cars, or lived with relatives in small cramped trailers with little sanitation. What happens when utilities are turned off for lack of payment--no way to heat that bottle of formula, no way to clean those bottles. So I have never understood this two-prong policy, this magical belief that in the US, that everyone here has access to electricity and clean water and medical care. And at the rate the politicians are currently pushing everyone into poverty, the numbers of disadvantaged in the US will continue to grow. We have a two-pronged policy in which the WHO encourages exclusive breastfeeding for hiv positive mothers based on a criteria called, AFASS http://motherchildnutrition.org/info/afass-principles.html
So we have a two-pronged policy on hiv transmission through breastfeeding in which depending on the country you live in, will depend on whether you are encouraged or "discouraged from breastfeeding."
But what if the studies on hiv transmission through breastfeeding are incorrect? I invite my readers who are interested in a different viewpoint to read a paper written by David Crowe, George Kent, Pamela Morrison, and Ted Greiner entitled, "Commentary: Revisiting the Risk of HIV Infection from Breastfeeding." It is on AnotherLook website and worth reading and considering. http://www.anotherlook.org/papers/g/english.pdf
I frankly think that hiv transmission rates through breastfeeding need to be revisited by the scientific community. I think there were serious mistakes made back during the time because of the panic and need to solve a situation quickly. But also from my perspective, I see that this policy was an enormous boost to profits for the infant formula industry.
The infant formula industry has financially benefited by these health care policies. And not just from stopping hiv-positive women from breastfeeding but from the spill-over effect of such policies. Not only does infant formula feeding become more common in various communities but a new notion appears in the media. Breastfeeding known as a protector of infant life is now thought to be a carrier of infection, disease, and death. How much of this policy was driven by narrow views, inadequate understanding of breastfeeding, and mostly the need for profit?
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain
Saturday, November 9, 2013
This morning I thought about what the future will be offering infants. I am sure it won't be the breast. It will be a choice of " a standardized Human Milk" or "a Dairy Substitute." Society seems to be gearing up for a very technological world in which breastfeeding has no place. Our current world seems ensnarled in its technology. People have phones stuck to their heads and hands. Try to contact a business or an organization, and ya get voice mail. No one is there. I ask on the phone, may I speak to a real person please. Oh sure, hold....my digital clock quietly moves the numbers, no tick tock in this world. If I became a mother now (yes a biological miracle), I don't think I would have time to connect with a baby. I'd be too busy looking at my emails or Facebook, browsing websites, looking at photos. And of course I wouldn't be home, I'd be in the workplace, making a living or is it a dying? Thank god, I had my children before I had a computer. I knew things were getting strange even when my kids were little--that people were disconnected. I'd go to a party and someone would be videotaping the party. Fine. But then before the party would end, everyone would have to watch the videotape of the party. So the experience of the party became a movie and the movie was the experience of the party. It became this narcissistic event of watching yourself and your friends. So rather than spending time talking with each other, dancing, or sharing a meal, we passively watch ourselves party. I found that strange then and realize it was the beginning of our current cultural journey of disconnection.
I found myself reading a Prolacta patent, entitled "Human Milk compositions and methods of making and using same." (patent # 8545920) And my sense of disconnection increases and weariness falls heavily on my shoulders. Inventing human milk concoctions appears to be very complex. Interestingly, we are told (like all the infant formula patents), "Not every mother, however, can or will breastfeed her baby..." We learn about screening donors through interviews and biological sample processing.We are informed that "each donor's milk is sampled for genetic markers, e.g. DNA markers, to guarantee that the milk is truly from the registered donor." Genetically screened by PCR (polymerase chain reaction) for contaminants. Then the milk is filtered, and heat treated. Then the cream of the milk is separated from the skim by centrifuge. This may be done twice. Then once this is done, the cream is added back and further filtration occurs which concentrates the nutrients by filtering out the water. The water obtained from this process is called permeate. There are various processes depending on whether they are making a fortifier or standardized human milk. Some of those processes are freezing and then thawing, adding minerals or extra cream. After certain steps then pasteruization happens. The vitamins and minerals that may be added to the various inventions are: "vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitmain B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, biotin, Folic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin, m-inositol, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, manganese, coper, sodium, potassium, chloride, iron, and selenium. The compositions can also be supplemented with chromium, molybdenum, iodine, taurine, carnitine and choline may also require supplementation." DHA and ARA, fatty acids may also be added depending on the product. Depending on their source for these fatty acids, most are genetically engineered. The list of added vitamins and minerals reads like the ingredient list on infant formula. I suppose their suppliers for these added nutrients are the same ones that the infant formula industry uses.
The processing of donor milk at Prolacta seems very complex with many steps. How does this kind of milk resemble the milk that infants drink at the human breast? Is part of the reason for fortification (besides the fact that most of this goes to premature infants) because this has become highly processed which means nutrients are lost? And then what are the ethics behind women donating their milk so that this company can make a profit?
I do see this as the future of infant feeding. With the ability to filter out various components of human milk, the components can be sold to the infant formula industry who will add it into their products. Already Abbott has 7 or 8 patent applications in which Human Milk Oligosaccharides will be used in their infant formula and the way the patent is worded makes me wonder whether they will be using the real component or the gmo version. Abbott is partnered with Prolacta, so it isn't farfetched to believe that this might be the direction they are going. Or maybe not. What will be the direction of infant formula in the future? What is Prolacta's place in that future? Who would have thought that people would accept standardized human milk products? Who would have thought women would donate their milk to that endeavor? Seems like science fiction. What will the future bring?
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Well folks lets get to the real story, not my life of baby tomatoes, kale, red sail lettuce, raccoons, possums, wrens, and that cocky blue jay. Let's talk about this mornings amusing adventure at the US Patent Office. I found a very interesting patent because it changed my perspective about a product, infant formula. The patent has nothing to do with human milk which I usually write about. The patent created this light bulb effect in my brain. And so I now have a new definition for the product we call infant formula. And since this is not an original thought, I must give credit where credit is due. The patent is called, "Manufacturing execution system for use in manufacturing baby formula," patent # 8498729 owned by SMP Logic Systems LLC (a drug manufacturing software company). It is a system which performs validation and quality assurance for baby formula manufacturers to "achieve data and product integrity." This patent classifies infant formula as a dairy substitute. People buy dairy substitutes and they are products like imitation cream, coffee whiteners, cheese, and ice cream. As one definition states these foods are "similar in taste, and texture to genuine dairy products." [my emphasis] In fact I learned that Dairy Substitutes are made by blending fats, proteins, and carbohydrates using the same technology and equipment used to manufacture real dairy products." Good to know, good to know. So infant formula, a dairy substitute, is almost like a real dairy product. Today I learned something new and just wanted to share it with my readers. The patent also stated that, "many consumers are under the mistaken impression that the FDA closely and carefully monitors infant formula."
Just the morning coffee news. Maybe it will startle some people because it is a new perspective and then again maybe I am the only one fascinated by infant formula, the dairy substitute. Just a quick story about my experience with a cheese substitute (am allergic to dairy but really miss cheese). I was buying these vegan cheese slices, all wrapped in wonderful plastic wrap. I went on a road trip--7 days back and forth from Florida to the Boston area to visit relatives. I put those cheese slices (thinking it would be a good snack) in a soft nylon cooler, along with some ice packs. I put them in a zippered portion of the cooler and promptly forgot about them. Ate the fresh cut fruit I brought but totally forgot about those cheese slices. Got back to Florida emptied the cooler (by then ice packs no longer frozen) but again forgot about the cheese slices. One week later, I just happened to go through the zippered pockets and lo and behold there was the cheese slices. No mold! They looked exactly like they did when I put them in the cooler, only now warm imitation cheese slices. How do you create a food that doesn't rot? My parents bought this imitation ice cream. They gave some to their dog and she didn't want it and it sat out all day (Florida) and it didn't melt. It didn't melt!!! Send that stuff to the polar ice caps to save the world from global warming!! Needless to say my parents quit eating that particular brand of ice cream and I have quit those vegan imitation cheese slices. So the dairy substitute, infant formula, is fake real food...and we have it because....I know, I know, women can't or won't breastfeed. I think I will go outside and play in the garden.
Copyright 2013 Valerie W. McClain
Friday, October 25, 2013
A river of denial cuts through our digital world. What do we believe? And why do we believe it? Nestle, on their website, denies they are "trying to patent human breast milk." They state, "We have filed patents to protect the use of a protein called osteoprotegerin in food and granted two patents in the US. This particular protein is found in many types of milk and may be used to help treat bone disorders and regulate immune responses."
Yes, a protein and where is it found? The first sentence in their patent abstract (patent #7749960, one of two on osteoprotegerin), "The present invention pertains to osteoprotegerin obtainable from milk sources, in particular human and bovine milk." The rest of the patent is centered on human milk, a Western blot analysis of human milk franctions, a RT-PCR analysis of human breast milk cells, cloning the protein in yeast, and human mammary gland epithelial cells. I see no mention of an analysis of bovine milk or Western blots on bovine milk fractions or PC analysis. Maybe I missed it?
I particularly enjoyed reading from the patent these statements, "In the studies leading to the present invention, it has now surpisingly been found that in addition to its presence in e.g. the bone tissues, osteoprotegerin may also be found in human breast milk. In consequence, during breast feeding the mother is obviously supplying the newborn with this bioactive substance in a form that is capable of surviving the child's gastro-intestinal tract. From this it follows that the OPG [osteoprotegerin] produced by mammary gland cells obviously differs from OPG isolated from other sources as regards its stability and/or resistance to degradation."
So here is a substance in human milk that can be used to treat bone disorders. A substance to treat bone loss caused by calcium or hormonal deficiencies. Whether Nestle will use this substance or some cloned, genetically engineered version, or the bovine protein is unknown. I tend to view these statements as interesting even if this patent does not become a product. The standard medical belief in regard to human milk is that it is deficient in calcium for preterm infants. So preterm infants must be supplemented. Hm, yet there is a substance in human milk that cures bone loss caused by calcium or hormonal deficiency and it resists degradation in the gut of the infant. Interesting and if it were up to me I would want to revisit the issue of the need of supplementation of preterm infants in regard to calcium. And I would like to see research done on how these synthetic vitamins and minerals added to human milk improve the substance. Or might these synthetic substances nullify the effects of human milk? But I doubt that these questions will be asked.
Nestle has these two patents on osteoprotegerin and I suppose we will continue to debate about what they are actually patenting--human or bovine milks. But they have more patents on various human milk components (of course, all state various mammal milks might be used). For instance, patent # 8394370 entitled, "Nutritional formula for optimal gut barrier function." One of the options they state is a "Human Milk Oligosaccharide such as Sialyllactose." Or patent #8524658 entitled, "Lactoferrin and brain health and development in infants." The source for this patent is a milk or whey source: bovine, human, goat, camel, horse or donkey milks. And they state that colostrum may be used. In fact they state, "Human colostrum has a relatively high concentration of lactoferrin followed by human milk, then cow milk." Or we could look at patent #7230078 entitled, "Soluble toll-like receptor." This patent states, "The present invention is based on the surprising discovery of a molecular component of human breast milk..." and "...the present invention may be obtained from human milk; especially during the early stages of lactation."
Yes, that river of denial. "No. We have not patented human breast milk, nor are we trying to." I swear I am living in George Orwell's novel, "1984." But then maybe its just that I am living next to that river of denial waiting for the dawn.
Valerie W McClain copyright 2013