Friday, December 30, 2011

Reclassifying enterobacter sakazakii to Cronobacter and other oddities...

Enterobacter sakazakii was reclassified in 2007 and now we call it Cronobacter spp.  This was proposed in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology in a paper entitled, "Identification of 'Cronobacter spp.(Enterobacter sakazakii)," authored by Carol Iversen et al.  Carol Iversen is on the Faculty of the Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene-Zurich Switzerland and also in the Quality and Safety Department of Nestle Research Centre.  The other authors are either from Nestle or the same Institute for Food Safety as Iversen.  Two of the authors are from the Centre for Food Safety at the University College Dublin (Veterinary Sciences Centre).  So I am intrigued.  Why this reclassification?  Is it logical?  Don't know, I am not a microbiologist.  But this reclassification seems to mean that enterbacter sakazakii, as a new member of Cronobacter, becomes a part of a much larger group of similar pathogens that infect mostly adults and that date back to the 1950's.  So instead of viewing enterobacter sakazakii as a new emerging pathogen from the 1980's, we now have food safety experts stating that enterobacter sakazakii has been around since 1950's.  I find that interesting from my perspective because of my belief that genetic engineering is causing a shift in pathogens, creating new, more virulent pathogens.  Do I have the expertise to say this?  No, hell no.  But I am a curious person and have been a believer in organics (from growing organically to buying organic foods).  I have been this way since the early 1970's.  Back then I was more concerned about pesticides (having read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 7th grade and wrote a paper on it for science class).  So in no way do I claim to be an expert on microbiology but I believe that ordinary citizens have the right to question the "experts."  Those "experts" should feel some obligation to respond with references and not with wild accusations regarding conspiracy theories.  It is interesting that debate in the USA is all about accusing others of conspiracy theories.

It seems that Phyllis Entis of the website of eFoodAlert believes I am a conspiracy theorist and that I am "mucking" up her comment section.   Ms Entis has worked for industry as well as government on food safety issues.  I am somewhat amazed by her responses to comments.  She writes, "This trio of C. sakazakii infections in infants is presently only of interest to the parents of those infants, epidemiologists and press outlets that are quite aware the combination of food-borne illness, babies and death makes for good stories."  I am curious as to why she thinks that parents, grandparents, everyday citizens would not be interested in this situation because it is a safety issue that involves our children.  She states this is about the "trifecta of sensationalistic journalism."  

I do love her comments to me, such as, "I am not wasting my whole morning finding you a citation from the 16th century, but C. sakazakii infections predate genetic modification process in which the endpoint is a product used in commercial foods."  Funny, I wasn't asking for a citation from the 16th century.  But interesting that now that we call enterobacter sakazakii, Cronobacter, we can state that this pathogen predates genetic modification.  Bingo.  Now we can say to the general public that of course, enterobacter sakazakii has nothing to do with genetic modification.  And very interesting that the proposal for reclassification comes from  some scientists who work for Nestle.  Oh yeah this confirms that I am a conspiracy theorist, since no corporation or its scientists would just reclassify an organism so that the general public will believe that the organism is everywhere in the environment and been around since the 1950's.   But you know it sure lets the infant formula industry off the hook.

Well, this is for the food safety experts.  Let's talk about how a Japanese company makes amino acids. Choose a pathogen, genetically engineer it, and ferment and presto chango, L glutamic acid.  Guess which one of many pathogen's this food company has listed as possible maker of L-glutamic acid?  Among the many pathogens listed on their patent, we have enterobacter sakazakii (of course there are many variations of this organism, some benign and some not so tame).   Name that US patent. "L-glutamic acid producing bacterium and process for producing L-glutamic acid"  filed in 1999 owned by Ajinomoto Co., Inc.  Patent #7247459.  From the abstract, "L-glutamic acid is produced by culturing in a medium a microorganism belonging to enterobacteria and having L-glutamic productivity, into which a citrate synthase gene derived from a coryneform bacterium is introduced..."  By the way, I do believe Ajinomoto Co. does supply amino acids to the infant formula industry. Is it safe?  Ask your government and food safety experts....genetic engineering...never heard of it.  I'll drink to that and I am not talking about having a cup of coffee.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

**12 Known cases of enterobacter sakazakii in the US for the year 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Questioning Enterobacter sakazakii (Cronobacter spp.)

In the developed country, the USA, two babies have died and one baby is recovering from what is believed to be an infection from an organism called enterobacter sakazakii reclassified recently as Cronobacter sakazakii.  It is suspected that the infection was caused by contamination in powdered infant formula.  As a precaution, various retailers have removed a particular brand of powdered infant formula  (a Mead Johnson product-Enfamil Newborn Infant Formula the 12.5-oz cans, Lot #ZP1K7G) from their store shelves.  The product has not been recalled.

The FDA in a letter written in April of 2002 to health professionals on Enterobacter sakazakii infections associated with the use of powdered infant formulas in neonatal intensive care units states, "The majority of cases of E. sakazakii infection reported in the peer-reviewed literature have described neonates with sepsis, meningitis, or necrotizing enterocolitis as a consequence of the infection, and the case fatality rate among infected neonates has been reported to be as high as 33%."  (Other health authorities, such as the WHO give the fatality rate from 40-80%)

John Brooks,a microbiologist who specializes in food microbiology  has stated at Food Safety News, "Cronobacter sakazakii is an environmental contaminant, which mostly affects only a small subset of the population, such as premature babies and infants under 1 year of age....Though it is ubiquitous in nature, only powdered infant formula and preparation equipment have been linked to C. sakazakii outbreaks among infants."

Sad and frightening news for many parents. I am deeply sad for the parents and deeply disturbed by some of the "comments" that fly around the internet creating more anguish and heartbreak for the parents of these infants.  Our society has its illusions about almost everything, particularly regarding the food technology behind infant formula.  It is not parents who created that illusion.  It is an industry that makes billions.  Blaming the victims is always easy but never the answer.   The questions that need answering are why aren't we educating parents more thoroughly on the risks of infant formula feeding.  Why isn't the medical community more aware of those risks?  Fear?  Fear of a billion dollar industry that has its tentacles in the medical, research, and educational communities?  When industries make billions, there is an easy way to shut people up: pay them, employ them, gift them.  It would all be fine, if this industry was really about "choice."  But the industry's idea of choice is the loaded dice at a crap table. 

I do have some questions about this bacteria.  Why does Dow Chemical have a patent on this organism?  Patent #4806636 called, Heteropolysaccharide produced by Enterobacter sakazakii filed in March of 1985.  The abstract states, "The heteropolysaccharide has many uses as a suspending, thickening, or stabillizing agent, and is particularly useful as a frictional drag reduction agent in aqueous systems."

"Since it is a polysaccharide, preferred applications are where human contact or ingestion of the tea polysaccharide is possible.  In addition to applications already mentioned, other uses include frictional drag reduction for irrigation or drinking water, spray drift control for herbicides and pesticides for food crops, spray drift control for forest fire fighting fluids, and the like."

Dow filed this in 1985.  Enterobacter sakazakii was discovered in 1980 as a separate species.  Did this patent become a product?  The bacterial culture is fermented, genetic engineering is suggested.  Is this a stable organism?  Obviously from various reports this organism is prevalent in our environment.  How did that happen?  What has changed in our environment?  How many consumers know that pathogens are genetically engineered to be used in products, some of those products are in foods that we ingest?  Aren't infants more vulnerable?

I read with interest an article from Scientific American called, "Turning Bacteria into Plastic Factories." (September 2008)  "A new company has found a way to produce polymers from genetically engineered microbes that feed on sugars, replacing fossil-fuel based processes."  The company is working with E. coli.

Industry is playing with pathogens, rearranging genetic structures.  How does one dispose of these new products?  Throw them in the river, give them to the local dump?  Even if the products never go to market, what do you do with the mistakes?  Will it be like all our nuclear spent fuel rods that we don't know what to do with other than dump them into a hole in the ground?  Or is it worse than this because there seems to absolutely no regulation?

There is a number of scientists who are very concerned about genetic engineering.  The concern is that genetic engineering will create deadly superviruses. Their is the threat of antibiotic resistance.  Genetic engineering uses antibiotic resistance markers that can readily transfer into our foods.  There is the fear that it is genetic engineering that is causing a resurgence of infectious disease.  Genetic engineering is causing more and more food allergies.  What are the risks of genetic engineering for infants fed infant formulas that are derived from this dna technology?  Here is an article on the higher risks for children.

I believe parents have to start questioning what is in that can of infant formula?  How much is genetically engineered?  What pathogens are they using to gmo this particular component?  How many of these items use antibiotic resistance markers? Where are the long-term studies on the safety of this kind of food for infants, particularly the premature infant?
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Choice: genetically engineered infant formula vs. breastfeeding

Insanity rains on our people, like a radioactive isotope drifting from one country to another country.  I am mesmerized by the propaganda that flies from website to website, from one facebook page to another.  The belief that breastfeeding advocacy must promote "choice."  The belief that somehow men can create a safe artificial milk for babiesIf we just mix it correctly, have clean water, then feeding a milk from another species will be safe.  Forget our immune system, our biology, that mammal milks are species specific, let's join the chorus of choice.

How happy this makes the infant formula industry because no one will question the basic problem of feeding artificial milks to the human baby in our technological age of genetic engineering.  It's an experiment, the consequences are unknown.  Babies are being fed a formula that contains a variety of substances that are genetically engineered.  Safety has not been properly evaluated for one substance.  No one knows the safety of mixing a variety of genetically engineered substances.

For instance DHA and ARA that has been a required substance in baby formulas for a decade.  Eleven years ago I wrote in Lactnet about the fact that the Martek Bioscience (the manufacturer of these oils from algae and fungi)patents showed that in all probability these substances were genetically engineered.  Martek denied that they were gmo products and threatened me by email to cease and desist calling them gmo.  There was no way I could prove that they were gmo but certainly their patents from the early 1990's showed that the company was investing in this technology.  
My post to Lactnet regarding Martek oils (many posts on this issue to Lactnet but shows that we could suspect that these oils might be gmo or would be in the future).

I started calling the oils novel--because it means new but also can mean genetically engineered.  Recently I read an article by that "DHA used in infant formula products comes from genetically modified algae."  So was Martek admitting that the algae was gmo?  No, their statement was that they mix their algae with gmo corn oil.  Interesting.  What does that mean for our babies?  We really didn't give you gmo algae, it was just mixed with gmo corn.  So technically you got the real thing....of course the real DHA and ARA is a component of human milk.  And since infant feeding is about choice, parents are making the choice for the gmo substance.  Who cares that this substance has never been ingested by babies before because we have our technology gods who can engineer our food by mixing genes from one species with another.  Yeah, who cares about species specific.  We are going to be one world, one huge mixture of organisms.  We know that there won't be any ramifications because we just know our science is perfect.  Of course, that is sarcasm.  It's like our belief in the 50's that men and women can watch an atomic explosion from a safe distance and it won't harm them, just great fireworks.  It's like our current belief that the Japanese nuclear reactor disaster will only have health effects to the people near those reactors.  Wind drift, ocean currents have no meaning to people who believe that humanity can deal with minute doses of radiation.  Yeah, plutonium,  you can bath in's perfectly safe.  The PR industry in full swing.  Funny how some of those PR people for the nuclear industry are the same people promoting breastmilk feeding.  PR people have no loyalities, just a need for steady employment.

Yes, off the beaten track.  So the world believes that only Martek is genetically engineering its algae...funny how no one asks about the fungi/ARA?  The organic movement thinks they can find a natural DHA and ARA, like you can find a natural source of vitamin D3 that isn't a gmo product. [flaxseed is being genetically engineered]  I laugh because laughing is far better than crying about this mixed-up reality show called life.  Martek is not the only one playing with genes to make DHA/ARA.  There are at least 3 other companies playing this game.

Patent #8049064 called, "Method for producing polyunsaturated C. sub.20- and C.sub.22-fatty acids with at least four double bonds in transgenic plants,"  owned by BASF Plant Science GmbH [vitamin/supplement company] filed in 2006

Patent #8067674 called, "Desaturase genes, enzymes encoded therby, and uses thereof,"  owned by Abbott Labs [drug and infant formula company] filed in 2009..abstract says, "Disclosed are isolated polynucleotides encoding an omega-3 desaturase and a delta-12 desaturase, the enzymes encoded by the isolated polynucleotides, vectors containing the isolated polynucleotides, transgenic hosts that contain the isolated polynucleotides that express the enzymes encoded thereby..."

Patent #8013215 called, "Production of arachidonic acid in oilseed plants," owned by E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company filed in 2008...abstract says, "Oilseed plants which have been transformed to produce arachidonic acid, recombinant constructs used in such transformations...."

Processed foods contain gmo products.  Infant formula is processed food.  But the problem with processed food for infants is that we will not know the ramifications until these babies grow up, if they grow up.  Recently we learned that a Japanese formula has been contaminated with cesium from the nuclear reactor disaster.  A recall was issued.  But what about wind currents drifting to the USA or other countries?  Are we monitoring infant formula here?  Or are we believing that what we can't see won't hurt us?  How does a mix of gmo products with radioactive elements effect the health of infants?   

Breastfeeding, particularly exclusively, builds an active working immune system.  Infant formula cannot do this despite the enormous creativity of the industry.  What babies will be the most at risk as we degrade the environment?  Will we monitor how babies are feed in correlation to infant morbidity and mortality rates? Or will we continue to use PR to promote choice?  Is being politically correct more important than understanding the intrinsic risk of feeding genetically engineered, radioactive contaminated milks to infants? 
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Society's denial of the evidence regarding infant feeding

I remember smoking my first cigarette in Church camp in 1967.  I remember how horrible it tasted but how really cool and hip I felt taking a drag off of a Marlboro cigarette.  I was 16 years old and I felt like this was my initiation rite into adulthood.  Marlboro was my cigarette.  I felt liberated.  I smoked those cigarettes until 1981, some 14 years.  It became a habit that was hard to break.  I smoked more when I had bronchitis and I had bronchitis alot.  Towards the end of my smoking years, I saw people I knew die of lung cancer (people who smoked for years and smoked while getting cancer treatments).  I knew the "rumor" about the connection between smoking and lung cancer but somehow it didn't stop me from smoking.  I suppose we all think we are invincible.  I did want to quit but it never seemed to work.  Just before I quit, I had been sick and went to the doctor.  It was once again bronchitis.  The doc listened to my lungs, prescribed something for it.  But then he did the unspeakable, he spent 10 minutes telling me that I needed to quit smoking.  It was a long 10 minutes and I was mad.  Mad at him for saying what no one else would say to me.  I remember thinking, how dare he tell me what to do and not do.  It was my body and my Marlboro Country.  I was mad about it for weeks.  I kept thinking, "I'll never go back to that quack!"  Yet, deep down I was disturbed.  And I really started thinking about quitting.  I finally quit.  It was a month of hell and I feel sorry for those who were around me when I quit.  I look back now and realize the influences that got me started smoking.  My parents smoked, so it seemed normal.  It seemed like grown-up behavior.  My first cigarette was free and it was the brand I stuck with for 14 years.  The feelings of liberation probably came from the ads I saw on TV.  Of course, it wasn't true liberation.  I was a slave to my cigarette fix.  It cost me a ton of money in terms of buying the product and being sick.  I haven't had bronchitis since I quit smoking some 30 years ago (touch wood...don't want to jinx myself).  I have a debt of gratitude for that doctor who was willing to say what so few people were willing to say back then.  He was direct with me  and while I did not immediately quit smoking it got me thinking.   Now we know that cigarette smoking causes even more health effects.  It impacts the cardio-vascular system.  It causes a rare kidney cancer (my stepmom got this and had to have dialysis, she smoked for some 40 years or more).  We know alot more now and accept that smoking is not healthy.

So what has this got to do with infant feeding?  Like our understanding of the health effects of smoking tobacco, our society is at that stage of denial regarding infant formula.  We disbelieve the evidence because we cannot believe a common practice like infant formula feeding can be detrimental.  We should see it, but we don't see it.  And when we see the destruction, we believe it won't happen to us.  After my experience, I realize that advocacy does not necessarily bring friends, nor is that the purpose of advocacy.  There will be anger and denial.  This is what we are witnessing right now.  I call it the river of denial.  There was a river of denial regarding smoking which was aided and abetted by the tobacco industry.  The same river runs through the infant feeding debate only it is the infant formula industry who is aiding this river of doubt.

Mothers believe that there is a balanced choice between breastfeeding and infant formula.  They believe that the only risk might be contaminated water, if you live in Africa.  When I first became a La Leche League leader in the 80's, I had obtained two booklets with scientific references to breastfeeding.  I believe they were edited by AS Cunningham.  Page after page of studies showing the protective properties of breastfeeding and the risks of infant formula.  For instance, a study done by AS Cunningham called "Morbidity in breast-fed and artificially fed infants." J Pediatr 1979 Nov;95(5 Pt 1):685-9.  I quote from the abstract, "The protection afforded by breast-feeding is greatest during the early months, increases with the duration of breast-feeding, and appears to be more striking for serious illness.  It operates independently of the effect of associated factors such as socioeducational status, family size, day-care exposure, and birth weight."  There were many similar studies and I remember thinking this is a powerful body of evidence.  Yet here it is almost 2012 and we still have this enormous denial of evidence from bloggers like fearless formula feeder.  Actually, we still have denial from some breastfeeding advocates.  There is this belief that if one teaches mothers in developed nations how to correctly use infant formula, then there is no risk of feeding formula to infants.  It is a belief that having clean water, correct measurements, eliminates the risk of infant formula.  Yet, there is a large body of research starting from the seventies that shows that there is intrinsic risks to using infant formula.

I have been mulling over the words, species specific, particularly when it is directed at the milks made by different mammals.  Human beings are mammals, although in our culture of admiration of technology over nature, one gets the feeling that we believe that we can overcome this trait.  Species specific.  I keep saying that to myself.  We know that some mammals, cows, must have colostrum to survive.  So while the calf of a dairy cow is taken away from its mother, it is given cow colostrum.  It won't survive without it. That knowledge was learned the hard way, by the deaths of calves deprived of their mother's milk.  Luckily for us, humans, our survival is not totally dependent on human colostrum.  Although I would argue that the health and well-being (short-term and long-term) of human infants is impacted by depriving them of colostrum.

It is of interest that gene studies on the mammary gland of various species believe that the milk of each species is tailored to the specific immune system of that animal.  I read somewhere that each species has antibodies that are species specific.  In an article called "Mammals Got Milk,"  they say, "A new study looks at the genes that produce milk among seven species of mammals, including us, and finds that all of them share a lot of the same milk making genes but not all species deliver the same milk.  In fact, the milk might be tailored to the specific immune system needs of the animal."  and

"Overall, the findings of our study support the hypothesis that the biological roots of milk production in mammals are quite ancient and that evolution of milk has been constrained in order to maximize the survival of both mother and offspring..."

We are now living in times where there is real concern about antibiotic resistance and old infectious diseases are making a come back because our medicine no longer works.  We know that breastfeeding builds an immune system.  So that in my mind the infant that is formula fed is in essence less able to fend off disease because they are immune deficient.  Infants are being deprived of the optimal defense system against disease, breastfeeding.  Yet, our society continues to deny the life-saving qualities of breastfeeding, and defends choice.  Infant feeding choice is liberation?  Yeah, I felt really liberated smoking cigarettes in my youth.  How much of what we feel about infant feeding is derived from the infant formula industry's public relation system in full drive?  How much of the anger that some infant formula feeding mothers feel against breastfeeding advocates is misplaced?  It reminds me of the anger I felt against my doctor for telling me to quit smoking. Denying the evidence, may make everyone feel more comfortable about "choice."  But choice comes at a cost in dollars and cents;  and more importantly in short term and long term health consequences to both a mother and her baby.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nano-nano in the bottle: new technology for infant formula

There is a tomato on my windowsill and I keep staring at it when I do my dishes.  I don't have a dishwasher.  I am fascinated by how this tomato rotted and I can't bear to throw it out.  I live in Florida with no air conditioning; ceiling fans and terrazo floors keep it bearable in the summer.  So if food rots on my windowsill, it usually becomes a gooey mess.  This tomato rotted from the inside-out, and blackened and then shriveled like a grape turning into a raisin.  It never liquified.  Why?  I have never seen a tomato do this in my household.  I was waiting for the tomato to ripen, after buying it at the grocery store.  Damn tomatoes from the store, always hard as a rock and looking not yet ripe.  The thing never got ripe, it just rotted and shriveled.  So I start my paranoid musing.  What did they do to this poor little guy?  Irradiate him?  Or is it a genetically engineered mutant tomato?  What the hell is the food industry doing?

My thoughts turn to infant formula and a new patent owned by Nestle.  And I wonder how I can get my mind to understand the new technology that the food industry is now using.  It's called nanotechology.  The FDA says, "Nanotechnology allows scientists to create, explore, and manipulate materials measured in nanometers (billionths of a meter).  Such materials can have chemical, physical, and biological properties that differ from those of their larger counterparts."

The Nestle patent is called, "Nanoparticulated whey proteins,"  patent #8057839 filed in March of 2007 and published this month at the US Patent and Trademark Office.  The abstract states, "Specifically, the present invention pertains to the use of these nanoparticulated whey proteins as emulsifiers, fat substitute, micellar casein substitute, whitening, foaming, texturizing and/or filling agents."

The patent is intended for use in infant formula as well as in "pasterized UHT milk, sweet condensed milk, yoghurt, fermented milks, milk-based fermented products, milk chocolate, mousses, foams, emulsions, ice creams, fermented cereal based products, milk based powders, infant formula, diet fortifications, pet food, tablets, liquid bacterial suspensions, dried oral supplement, wet oral supplement."

Why are they doing this?  The patent states, "The nanoparticulated whey proteins have shown to be ideally suited for uses as an emulsifiers, fat substitutes, substitutes for micellar casein or foaming agents, since they are able to stabilize fat and/or air in an aqueous system for a prolonged period."

You say, "It's only a patent."  "It's not in our food system, and wouldn't be in baby formulas."  Hm....that's what you think?  It's not on the label.  Of course, I am laughing now.  Label?  Genetically engineered foods went commercial in 1985, starting with enzymes used in various food processes (wines, cheese, breads).  There are no labels.  Americans are just beginning to realize that their foods are genetically engineered.   So nanotechnology, this will take a long time for the public to get their heads around this.  And without labels, we all assume that it hasn't happened yet.  According to an article at global research, "The Helmut Kaiser Consultancy Group, a pro-nanotechnology analyst, suggests that there are now over 300 nano food products available on the market worldwide." and "It predicts that nanotechnology will be used in 40% of the food industries by 2015."  The article also makes an interesting statement relevant to the use of nanotechnology in baby formula.  

"Food 'fortification' will be used to increase the nutritional claims that can be made about a given processed food-for example the inclusion of 'medically beneficial' nano-capsules will soon enable chocolate chip cookies or hot chips to be marketed as health promoting or artery cleansing."

Here we are again, improving infant formula and guess who are the guinea pigs?  Of course, we have the infant formula PR department/mommy bloggers who believe that infant formula itself is not a risk, its just the polluted water in places like Africa. Yeah, sure, I know, I know most Americans believe that the risk of formula is just in the water.  Of course most Americans think that infant formula is a little milk, sugar, salt....genetic engineering?  Never heard of it.

Nanotechnology?  Never heard of it. And what's a little nanotechnology with a pinch of genetic engineering have to do with it?  This is America, land of innovation and invention.  Welcome, to my nightmare.

Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Friday, November 25, 2011

It is what it ain't

I still hear that little voice inside my brain, "it is what it is."  I am working on negating this slogan of our times.  Think about the words.  Yeah, I am thinking hard, my brain is burning.  In the current state of economic crisis and the blatant corruption at Wall Street;  this slogan is hypnotic.  The words lull me into a stupor of acceptance.  Nothing will change, because it is what it is.  How comforting this simple slogan.  There is nothing we can do because it is what it is.  Over and over again we hear the words.  I am not influenced by repetition of stupid thoughts.  Or so I think I am not influenced?  Repetition is one of many techniques used by propagandists and advertisement industry.  They use it because it works.  Hitler wrote about it and changed history with it.  Advertisers use repetition to sell products.  We often think we are too smart to be bamboozled by advertisements.  Yet subliminal messages impact our brain in some ways.  see Propaganda

I suppose that is why I was fascinated by breastfeeding and infant formula blog sites that use a web design of specific words.  It is a propaganda technique;  the use of "loaded" words that "arouse a strong emotional response."  Does it mean that I believe the sites are connected in some way?  No. The only connection is the site owner's understanding of the power of words to create an emotional response.

Words are important.  The use of breastfeeding and breast milk as interchangeable words creates a fiction.  They are not interchangeable concepts.  They are vitally different.  While "breastfeeding is free," breast milk is not free.  Why?  Because in most cases our current culture dictates the use of pump technology to separate the milk from the mammary gland.  It requires the use of bottles and bottle nipples (few mothers are willing to use a cup which is far simpler to clean).  All this equipment must be bought.  Storage of breast milk requires refrigeration/freezers, which means a mother is dependent on some form of energy (be it electric or gas).  Which translates to higher electric or gas bills. 

I find it fascinating that breastfeeding advocacy organizations are saying that breastfeeding is not free.  But the infant formula industry says that breast milk is not free.  They know the difference.  Why don't we?  Woman who donate their breast milk give far more than a product that is life saving.  They are giving their time and money invested in equipment to help babies.  It is why I feel that mom's who donate to milk banks should get an honest accounting of where their donor milk goes.  How much of donor milk goes for research/researchers in the infant formula industry, how much to the NICU?  I never could get this question answered by HMBANA.  

I see breastfeeding advocacy organizations drifting into policies that don't make sense to me.  Baby Milk Action states at their website that they are not "anti-baby milk." and   "Our work protects all mothers and infants from irresponsible marketing."

This sounds so good and proper.  Yet I am troubled by these statements.  Promoting breastfeeding is protecting all mothers and infants.  One cannot protect formula feeding mothers as well as breastfeeding mothers. How can an organization serve well the needs of both groups without hurting one side or the other?  And the question is what information are breastfeeding organizations basing this subtle shift of thinking?  Do breastfeeding organizations believe that the formula feeding blogs are an accurate reflection of mother's who formula feed?  

I read a paper at one of the infant formula industry website called, "Women's perceptions of their healthcare experience when they choose not to breastfeed."  This article was from Women Birth (2011) At the bottom of the page in a stand-out grey box, the website which represents the infant formula industry states, "Please cite this article in press as Wirhana LA, Barnard A.  Women's perceptions of their healthcare experience when they choose not to breastfeed.  Women Birth (2011), doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2011.08.005"

Rather interesting to me that the infant formula industry is very aware of why women "choose" not to breastfeed.  That understanding leads to better and better and better advertisements.  And better and better blogs are created with that knowledge.  If you know someone's fears about birth, about breastfeeding, one can capitalize on those fears.  One can also persuade breastfeeding advocates that there are large numbers of women angry at them for advocating for breastfeeding.

In the drive to change the culture of cigarette smoking, because of its risk to health, the tobacco industry used its enormous profits to create a number of illusions.  Likewise, the infant formula industry will present its illusions to the public.  Unlike years ago, the infant formula industry has the whole playground of the internet to persuade people.  Believing PR campaigns by industry creates dangerous misconceptions about reality.  The anti-smoking campaigners/advocates did not feel the need to protect smokers from reality.   Advocacy is not for the faint-hearted or those who wish everyone to feel good about their choices.  As the Bible says, you cannot serve two masters.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"It is what it is"

It is what it is what it is...I think I am going to vomit.  I am so sick of being told, "it is what it is."  Why is everyone saying this slogan?  It's like a broken record, spinning in my head, like the song that you hate that just keeps playing around in your mind.  I am being mind blasted by Hollywood.  I heard it on some TV show and decided right then and there that I hated the show.  If I ever say this to someone, I will know that I am being controlled by the force...beam me up Scotty....

And this is the nature of making a good slogan, good PR.  Catchy phrase, simplistic reasoning, and get some Hollywood actors or actresses to say it and say it and say it.  Then we all believe it.  Ya hear something often enough you think you thought of it and that you are so brilliant.  Yeah...sure.  We creatures of this planet are the Great Imitators.  My first born at 3 weeks old was imitating her grandma who was making a clicking sound with her tongue.  I couldn't believe it.  My baby was positively, absolutely brilliant.  She could imitate the mouth movements of her grandma.  Slowly, after more children, I began to realize that babies/children imitate the adults around them.  It's the why of how your child learns her/his first swear word and repeats it and repeats it.  They heard it from you.  Of course you tell your family and friends my sweet child learned that word from that rotten delinquent 4 year-old kid from down the street.  Yes, of course, who probably learned it from some adult.  Although nowadays they probably learned those wonderful expletive deleted words from your TV set or computer.

So where is this discussion heading?  The wonderful new slogan created by breastfeeding advocates that breastfeeding is not free.  We are told that breastfeeding costs us:   in energy to produce milk, time, and in what we give up-opportunities lost.  (James Akre, author of The Problem with Breastfeeding)  What?  This slogan totally invalidates my experience and probably the experience of other mothers (because I don't think I am the only person who thinks this way).  My initial reason for breastfeeding was because it was free, because I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.  Exclusive breastfeeding helped the family budget in so many ways.  It did not mean that I devalued it because it was free.  It was the buried treasure because the longer I breastfeed my baby the more I valued it.  I believe it is like the farmer who treasures his seeds.  The seeds he/she has saved from harvest to harvest.  Freely given by nature but life-giving to the farmer and to a nation.

The need to say that breastfeeding is not free is a sophisticated intellectual argument in support of capitalism, of worth being measured in dollars and cents only.  The argument spins on the belief that time is money and that taking time for mothering babies forces women to miss employment opportunities.  It's about what we value in our society.   In the past decades of American life, our values have changed.  I think of the bumper sticker on some cars a few years ago, "He who dies with the most toys wins."  Bingo, life in the USA.  Of course now that we are in an economic Depression (yes I know the government says Recession), the bumper sticker seems rather sad because we have lost all our toys.  No, I guess we "all" haven't lost our toys.

So now we are to believe that breastfeeding is not free.  And I imagine if we repeat it many times, in many places in our media-driven society that we will also believe it.  What is the reality?  Breastfeeding is  like the plant that freely gives it seeds to the farmer.  It is free for the taking.  The farmer treasures and saves those seeds.  Only now has our corrupted economic times created a system in which the farmer must pay for his "terminated" seeds that do not reproduce.  Farmers and farming is being destroyed by this patent pending seed system created by Monsanto.  Likewise, if we, women, embrace that breastfeeding is not free, we will be accepting a system in which we will always be dependent on the ebb and flow of a market system.

Why do we devalue what is free?  My family had a motto that I still use, "if its free, its for me."  I think we have come to believe, "it is what it is."  That our society will never change.  That mothers with babies will continue to have to go back to employment at 6 weeks postpartum.  That value is only how much we are monetarily worth, our educational titles, our "new" clothes. We accept our caste system that professionals, the experts are at the top of the value pyramid which works its way down to white collar then blue collar workers, to the pit of despair the unemployed.   And somehow its strikes me as absurd.  As absurd as believing that, "It is what it is."
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In the darkest hour of the night

Why do we believe that the internet is about fostering community?  What is community?  The internet, the virtual is a smorgasbord of ideas, thoughts, bytes.  Surfing the wave of the past, the present, and the future;  we run smack dab into our community.  Someone who thinks like us, who touches our thoughts, our dreams, our hopes.  Yet unlike the street I live on in Realityville, the people walk the mean streets of the Virtual, veiled and hidden.  Who are they?  Are they really who they say they are?  Who do they work for?  Why are they saying what they are saying?  Belief?  Or are they the public relation hired hands, who feed on controversy.  Willing to say anything to create a War of worlds?  You say you know what is going on in the world of infant feeding.  And I feel totally lost by the players, real and the imaginary ones who like to post vicious, nonsense.  For what?  For traffic's sake.  And breastfeeding advocacy steps into the fray believing that the internet is community, that bloggers are really who they say they are and that the overheated comments are made by people who give a damn.  All I see are the public relation trolls having a ball at everyone's expense.  Why can't I see the world that others see?  

So tell me, friend, explain to me why breastfeeding organizations and the infant formula industry are using the same mantras.  At the Infant Nutrition Council website they state, "The Infant Nutrition Council recognises; that breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby."  Everybody has dropped that Breastfeeding is Best for Breastfeeding is Normal.  They also state that breastmilk is not free.  So we seem to have found common ground, a shared usage of promotional words.

The Infant Nutrition Council is made up of infant formula manufacturers in Australia, as well as New Zealand infant formula marketers.  Their membership includes, Bayer (yes, US readers Bayer makes infant formula...Novalac), Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd, H. J. Heinz Company Ltd, Nestle, Nutricia, Wyeth;  asooicate members are the Dairy Goat Cooperative and Murray Goulburn Cooperative.  They state that, "The Infant Nutrition Council will work in collaboration with other breastfeeding advocates such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association, the New Zealand Breastfeeding Authority and other NGOs."

"The Infant Nutrition Council is committed to supporting both breastfeeding and infant formula."

The Council does state "will work," meaning the future, right?  Yet they make this other interesting statement.  "The members of the Infant Nutrition Council work with key stakeholders to support the public health goals of promoting breastfeeding and good nutrition for infants."  Who are these stakeholders?

Is this just more smoke and mirrors from the infant formula industry?  Or has there been a change in viewpoint among breastfeeding organizations to "if ya can't beat them, join them?"   I can't tell anymore.  It seems like one huge masquerade ball.  We have Prolacta (who advertises for donor human milk) aligned with Abbott, the infant formula manufacturer.  And now the undercurrents, the eddies of new games in our Virtual Community.  

In the darkest hours of the night, I think the world I once knew is no more.  Nothing is what it seems.  Whose PR team will win this War?
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Infant Feeding Wars: PR Campaign?

"The newer salesmanship, understanding the group structure of society and the principles of mass psychology, would first ask: "Who is it that influences the eating habits of the public?" The answer, obviously, is: "The physicians." The new salesman will then suggest to physicians to say publicly that it is wholesome to eat bacon. He knows as a mathematical certainty, that large numbers of persons will follow the advice of their doctors, because he understands the psychological relation of dependence of men upon their physicians."
--by Edward Bernays, from his book entitled "Propaganda,"  Bernays is credited for getting US women to smoke in the late 1920's through public relation campaigns featuring models and actresses smoking.

Who influences the eating habits of infants?  Yes, physicians have a great influence, just like they did in the 1920's.  But the advent of the internet, the Virtual has created a whole new realm of influence...blogs.  The CDC uses its "mommy bloggers."  One campaign was to address, "the importance of vaccination, vaccine safety and communication messages. see "Don't get the Flu. Don't Spread the Flu.  Get Vaccinated."

Then we have various infant formula companies using bloggers to market their products to parents and families.  Nestle is using Latina Mom Bloggers (Joscelyn from Mami of Multiples, Ericka from Nibbles & Feasts, Liz from Thoughts of a Mommy and Dari from Mami Talks)

"Abbott Pays Mommy Blogs to Review Similac App," an article written by Ed Silverman at

discusses the lack of transparency by some bloggers about their associations with the industry.

Some mommy bloggers disclose their associations to the infant formula industry, some do not.  So how do readers of these mommy blogs evaluate the content of some sites, if there is no disclosure of financial ties.  I don't think it is an easy task.  

Are their mommy bloggers hired to promote breastfeeding?  Yes, I believe this is so.  The US Government is spending money promoting breastfeeding.  I am sure the size of the budget for this is miniscule compared to the infant formula industry.  

What I believe we are witnessing on the internet, on the Virtual, is a war between public relation camps.  Each side willing to make the most outrageous comments.  Should we believe that the commentators to these blogs are just "Josephine, citizen."  Are they just a part of the huge network of PR people assisting their friends in the PR industry of smoke and mirrors?  Certainly some commentators are from the PR industry; intent on making a stir, creating more traffic to blog sites (believing that this adds credibility to a blog). And certainly some commentators are who they say they are, a citizen who wants to be heard.

For instance trained actress (according to her resume), Suzanne Barston Cobb, Fearless Formula Feeder, had over 300 comments to her post/critique on a paper published in IBJ (International Breastfeeding Journal) on emergency infant feeding.  Some statements by commentators were outrageous and one commentator seems to think that boiling water for infant formula (even in emergency situations is unnecessary).  The concern seems to be if the WHO/UNICEF made these recommendations for infant feeding, then obviously it is a political ploy.  Maybe these commentators should read  literature from the International Formula Council on Bottle Safety Tips...
"Be sure to ask your pediatrician if you should boil and cool the water that you mix with the formula.  Depending on where you live and the quality of your water supply, boiling the water may help to keep your baby safe and healthy."

I would encourage parents to read the IFC (Infant Formula Council:  members are Abbott, Mead Johnson, Nestle, PBM Products/ A Perrigo Company, Pfizer) statement on genetically modified ingredients.  "The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies have declared that foods and ingredients produced through biotechology are safe.  The FDA also has concluded that all genetically modified (GM) ingredients they have approved for use in human foods, including infant formulas, are the same in composition, nutritional value and quality as non-biotechnology derived ingredients, and therefore labeling of foods containing GM ingredients is not required in the U.S."

Actually I don't believe that statement is quite correct.  The FDA leaves it up to industry to declare their product safe.

Fearless Formula Feeder and her commentators are planning to write to the journal that posted the paper on infant feeding in emergencies.  In her post she cites the article to the Journal of Human Lactation.  The article was not published there, but in the online publication called International Breastfeeding Journal. 

There is a blog called, Moms Feeding Freedom written by Kate Kahn.  The IFC (International Formula Council) recommends this blog.  And Source Watch states that this blog is funded by the IFC.  Kate Kahn is an adjunct professor at Boston University and was senior news producer at WHDH-TV (NBC-Boston).  She is the Principal at Kahn Communications.  Her blog has some featured articles:   "Selling your breast milk online--a dangerous trend,"  "Depression, Postpartum and Breastfeeding," "Breastfeeding--it's not really free."  And all brought to you by the IFC.  I think I have heard the mantra, "Breastfeeding-- its not really free," somewhere else?  Oh yeah, I remember...from some breastfeeding advocates.  Seems like breastfeeding advocates and infant formula advocates think along the same lines.  

Certainly, this infant feeding war, creates TRAFFIC.  Exchanges get very heated.  But who is creating this so-called war?  
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mass Media: The Great Manipulators

Noam Chomsky has stated, "Propaganda is to democracy as the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state."  We are witnessing the use of mass media to restrict dialogue on issues in order to promote the interests of corporations and government.  What is public relations and when is it propaganda?  How do we make a judgment on the sites we visit on the internet?  Has public relations become more and more a propaganda game?  And how does that impact society?

I suspect that much of what we now call PR is a manipulation of the public to accept the corporate state and its views on everything from the acceptability of war to infant formula.  Politics is about power.   The way in which we feed our babies is political.  Who wields that power, and who controls the media.  Ultimately control of the media rests with those who have the most bucks.  The Virtual is an open door to media manipulators to create certain illusions. 
There are techniques used in propaganda that are well-known by people who have analysed successful propaganda.  The following techniques are used:  name calling, glittering generalities, transfer, testimonial, plain folks, card stacking, band wagon. For further information see:

In reading some of Fearless Formula Feeders blog, I am amazed by her statements.  She considers women who formula feed the underdog.  Statistically speaking, breastfeeding is the underdog.  Few women exclusively breastfeed, most woman are weaning their infants within the first 4 months to formula: yet we are to believe that the real underdog is formula feeders.  While breastfeeding initiation rates have increased over the years, duration rates are very low.  So in reality many more women are experiencing formula feeding than breastfeeding.  Women who bottlefeed in public are not kicked out of public places, but breastfeeding mothers face that reality.  Who is the underdog?  What Fearless Formula Feeder's blog uses is "glittering generalities,"  a propaganda technique.  We identify with the "underdog."  Certainly, she may have felt in her social circle like the underdog for bottlefeeding but formula feeding is the reality for a majority of women in the USA.

Fearless Formula Feeder's blog presents "tips for drying up breastmilk (without the attitude)."  Her suggestions regarding drying up milk are not what I would suggest.  I think binding breasts and suddenly stopping production can risk mastitis and/or breast abscesses.  I have always recommended pumping to relieve pressure  (just enough to release some milk but not increase production) and alternating ice packs and warm showers to relieve pain)  I think binding the breasts is asking for a lot of pain that can be circumvented by a gradual process.  I also believe that binding the breasts can increase a mother's risk of mastitis and breast abscess.   

The irony of the need for tips on drying up breastmilk is that we believe that nowadays we have "choice" regarding our biology.  Our mammary glands do not recognize "choice" and make milk anywayMothers have to actively suppress lactation in order to choose infant formula.  Drugs, particularly bromocriptine, have been the answer until it was found that these drugs caused stroke, deaths.  

I think mothers need to evaluate information they are given, often this is difficult and time consuming and horribly confusing.   So many times mothers told me that everyone they had seen regarding breastfeeding had told them something different and that they were feeling very confused.  Who to believe?
I feel the same about medical research and the contradictory and confusing conclusions that we often see.  A key point in evaluating medical research is to understand who is funding the research.  Who do the researchers work for?  The same can be said about websites and blogs.  Who funds that website or blog?  

I was questioned by Suzanne of Fearless Formula Feeder blog about my lack of advertising.  I don't accept advertising.  My blog is free (at least for now).  I am no longer an IBCLC because of their stance on the WHO Code.  I was a La Leche League Leader for 10 years, a WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Coordinator for 4 years, I had a private practice for a number of years and could not make enough money to keep it open.  I now own and operate a environmental-friendly cleaning service and work part-time in a historic hotel doing housekeeping and turn-down service.  So my occupations in no way impact my blog or my views.  They do keep me afloat financially in an area that is mostly a tourist destination.  The county I live in is one of the poorer counties.  I was one of the few IBCLCs without a medical background, who got a position at a local hospital within their midwifery department.  Due to politics:  the midwifery program was shut down within a short time because the midwife allowed a mother to stand during 2nd stage of her delivery--a hospital birth.  I was told I would not be allowed to see any clients, particularly the mother who stood during 2nd stage.  I quit.  I quit the WIC Program because of many reasons, mostly because of the difficulty of working within a bureaucracy.  I did ask for the WIC job back, a year or so later, because I needed more work to pay my bills.  They offered half of what I made previously.  I thought the economics in my area was bad then, but they have gotten far worse.  I have cleaned beside a woman who had masters degree and taught college level classes, and local public school teachers who could not make ends met on their salaries.  I am happy to have a job because I see others losing homes and in the streets.  Am I happy about my career change?  No, of course not.  But this is the wonder world that our political and corporate leaders (our wall street wonder boys) have created due to corruption.  Of course I don't blame them totally...I have made the decisions that impacted my family for good and bad.  I can live with it because I have to live with it.  My blog is the result of not having the time to write a book about the patenting of human milk components.  The blog is also the result of certain people in our breastfeeding organizations who have given me and my writings the silent treatment.  Although those same people have wanted the information I have researched, but they didn't want my opinions on that research.  Thus my blog was born. 
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Choice: The Holy Grail of Infant Feeding

Choice has become the holy grail of infant feeding.  Female liberation has been predicated on the "freedom" to choose between infant formula and breastfeeding.  So are women freely making this choice?  Or is society, our medical-industrial-social-marketing-government institutions, creating the propaganda to influence choice?  

I seem to have stirred the hornet's nest, particularly on Facebook, regarding my comments on my previous post to my blog.  The blog writer for Fearless Formula Feeding wrote regarding me--STFU.  And a number of facebookers agreed to that statement.  I had to look up what STFU meant.  Yes, shows my age.  It means shut the fuck up. Wow. Yeah I seem to be the only one on the Virtual who is initial-impaired.  Rude, eh?  What can I say?  Oh yeah I am suppose to shut the....

Sorry, can't shut up, getting too old to shut up.  So I have an answer for those facebookers who think I should STFU.  Put your hands over your ears, close your eyes, and don't read my blog.  I allow humming while reading my blog and actually I do allow people to disagree with my point of view. 

I believe that biologically the mammary gland is a working organ and meant to be used.  Not using that organ has health ramifications for both mother and baby.  Long term there is enormous ramifications to society in terms of health care costs-physical and emotional.   Yet I do not believe that society and in particular government should force women to breastfeed.  I feel a woman has the right to refuse to breastfeed.  The right of refusal is a subtle but crucial difference than in believing in "choice."  Breastfeeding is normal mammalian behavior.  But as I have said many times before we do not live in natural/normal environments.  So while breastfeeding is normal, our culture makes it abnormal.  We struggle with learning to breastfeed because we do not see it in order to imitate it.  Humans are the great imitators.  When women are asked to leave public establishments because they are breastfeeding, it sends a message not only to the mother and her family but to the rest of the community.  These messages are pervasive in the USA.

Choice isn't choice when the person who makes that choice does not know the full consequences.  When a government, a society, withholds crucial information or an industry subverts that knowledge, then choice is a stacked deck.  If women knew about all the patents on human milk components or read the infant formula patents, I believe that they might question the safety of infant formula feeding.  They might question the belief that choice really exists in infant feeding. 
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Friday, October 28, 2011

Does fearless breastfeeding exist?

There is a blog called "Fearless FormulaFeeding:  standing up for formula feeders without being a boob about it."  Cute, catchy and oh so "rational" about the need to protect infant formula.   Yes we must protect infant formula from the judgmental breastfeeders of the world.   Okay, okay, the goal of the blog is to support, protect, and encourage infant formula mommys from the judgmental breastfeeding community.  Yet, I am fascinated by the design of this blog.  The use of words, large and small, "guilt,"  "father."  Oh the psychological games we can play when we have a PR industry in our back pocket.  I wonder who really created this blog?  A PR company?  With who's backing?  

The blog states, "that breastfeeding is not useless," but "Its turned into something we have to do, rather than want to do...."  I turn these words around and around in my head.  Of course we have to do it, it is biology.  We have legs and we walk (unless we are crippled), we have eyes and we see (unless we are blind), we have ears and we hear (unless we are deaf).  We have mammary glands and we make milk for our babies.  "Yes Sally, you have legs but you have a choice about using them.  Our society has changed since days of old where walking was normal, natural.  Walking is worth it... but so it your sanity, health, and sense of autonomy."  (the blog stated, "Breastfeeding is worth it.  But so is a mothers sanity, health and sense of autonomy.")

Choice is the holy grail of infant feeding.  We must have choice because we are liberated women.  Liberated from what?  Our biology.  Yet while we are liberating ourselves from our biology, our industry and institutions are making claims on the magic of the mammary gland and its milk.  How peculiar that seems to me. The Fearless FormulaFeeding blog believes "mothers are well aware"  of the benefits/advantages of breastfeeding (and obviously tired of hearing about it).  Yet I see no discussion on this blog about the patenting of human milk components by the infant formula industry.  So let's take a step for honesty to mothers.  If you don't breastfeed, you will be giving your infant the genetically engineered equivalent of human milk...cough-cough... they have yet to know all the components and clone them for use.  Where is the discussion about the safety of genetic engineering of formulas for newborn and premature infants?  This blogger presumes that infant formula is the safe option.  That presumption is based on ease of access to medical care, availability of good sanitation-clean water, etc.  It is predicated on the belief that manufacturers of infant formula do not make mistakes in the processing of infant formula ( we know this is not true because of the number of recalls and deaths/hospitalizations of infants who consumed contaminated infant formula).  

Why does feminism require a choice regarding the nurturing of our infants?  Why is breastfeeding idolized, romanticized?  It's biology.  It can be a beautiful experience but it is also like anything we do with our body.  It can be tiring, boring, painful, blissful, uplifting, repetitive, annoying, fun, funny, irritating, enjoyable, peaceful, sad, and on and on.  It's life with babies.  

Motherhood in the USA is judged and not just with breastfeeding.  Most of us have felt judged, tried, and convicted when dealing with a toddler who is having a meltdown in a public place.  The eyes of condemnation by others who believe you haven't been strict enough or loving enough.  You can't win whatever you do because there will always be someone who judges you as inadequate at this mothering game.  Why do we believe that mothers should just know how to parent because they are mothers?  Why does half our society believe that a good spanking is all that is needed for the toddler or child who cannot behave in public?  Why does the other half seem to ignore their misbehaving child?  

I have never seen a mother condemned for infant formula feeding in public (I am sure it exists but I have never heard anyone speak badly about a mother who bottlefeeds her baby).  But I have heard the words of disgust from people when a mother breastfeeds in public.  I have been given the evil eye for nursing my 2-week old baby in public.  So it is very hard for me to view the blog on Fearless FormulaFeeding as other than a public relation blog designed to influence mothers to bottlefeed without fear.  The design is to put breastfeeding up on that marble pedestal and make us believe that we have actually made a choice to bottlefeed.  Choice in actuality is a stacked deck that only works to protect infant formula feeding.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Manufacturing antibodies in an immune deficient world

Our world seems to have changed in the past few decades.  Our medical-industrial complex has us convinced that our bodies cannot keep us healthy without vaccinations, drugs, or specially processed liquid foods (cradle to grave formulas).  We can live on top of a chemical dump called earth.  It's okay to breathe in the smog of chemicals from industries making more chemicals.  It's okay to swim in the oceans, lakes, and streams that are so polluted that its creatures wash ashore at regular intervals, dead from a sewer of chemical hells.  It's okay to eat and drink our fast convenient foods.  As long as we get our vaccinations, drugs, and special convenient foods with added vitamins, we will survive.  Like a pod of whales beaching themselves, we humans seem to have run aground in a desperate failing world.  Half breathing, half eating, half drinking ourselves to death:  as the corporate world bankrupts the world.

We believe that we can manufacture an immune system, after we have destroyed it. Men of science have the locks and keys to the molecular kingdom of antigens, antibodies.  Oh brave new world!  Oh hybridoma, mother of us all.  We can genetically engineer immunity.  Ya don't need to birth normally, breastfeed, eat real food, breath fresh air.  Lets fix the problem with molecular engineering and while we are at it we can make a little money.  Because the DNA of life on this planet is the almighty world of profit.

So what has this got to do with breastfeeding?  Not much.  It has alot to do with the understanding of the mammary gland and the value of human milk.  One thing that is well known is that human milk is very antigenic substance.  It was and is still used (in a more limited fashion since it requires injecting the antigenic substance into a mouse which creates ascites that are drained for use in manufacturing antibodies-painful to the mouse) to create polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies.  These antibodies are used to create various ELISA, Western blot,  assay kits to test our blood.  One rather famous monoclonal antibody is BrE3 which is used to diagnose breast cancer and also used in breast cancer therapies.  It was developed through the use of HMFG (human milk fat globule).  There are various patents regarding the use of HMFG in the creation of monoclonal antibodies.  We have patent #5075219 owned by John Muir Cancer & Aging Institute and filed in 1989 and invented by Roberto L. Ceriani and Jerry A. Peterson.

"The BrE3 monoclonal antibody was developed using normal delipidated human milk fat globules as the immunizing agent."

"The BrE3 monoclonal antibody is unique because of its exceptional specificity for a mucin-like glycoprotein complex of very high molecular weight present on the surface and in the cytoplasm of breast carcinoma cells and which expresses no specificity for normal tissue of the adrenal, brain, bladder, colon, esophagus, lymph node, myocardia, muscle , parathyroid, thyroid, mesothelia and liver.  Consequently the BrE3 monoclonal antibody can be useful in several ways."

I am fascinated by the use of HMFG.  How was it obtained?  Is it still needed to create these test kits?  It is also used in therapies.  How much is needed?  Women donate their milk and our science uses substances from that milk (HMFG) to create test kits and therapies for breast cancer (and other cancers, too).  My mother died of breast cancer at 48.  I was 14 when she died and the impact of her death on me and my family still haunts me.  Would I have been a different person, if she lived?  Did she really have breast cancer?  How come?  We lived near a nuclear reactor in Canada-Chalk River in the 50's, which had had a serious accident.  I feel childishly stuck on questions that cannot be answered now.  Yet as far as I know, our family history did not include breast cancer until she died from it.  Is a diagnosis kit for cancer a good thing?  I think most people think it is a good thing.  How accurate?  When you are not sick, but take a blood test that says cancer is there;  what does it mean?  I was told by a friend that her oncologist told her that cancer cells are always floating around in your blood stream.  If you have a healthy immune system, your body fights it off.  How does a blood test know that your body is fighting it or not fighting it?  And how does chemotherapy help an immune system fight off cancer.  All to often it seems that those who take chemotherapy for one cancer die a few years later from another cancer.  For me it is a rather curious world, where we don't try to change our polluted world, we just use man-made creations to try and save our health.  The world seems to actively sabotage normal birth and breastfeeding and the cost is sick people.  But sick people are good for the economy--at least in the USA, where healthcare is based on the profit system.  It seems like we are working this problem backwards.  We accept our polluted world, sabotage any semblance of healthy birth and breastfeeding, and wonder why the world is so sick. 
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reverse transcriptase in human milk

In 1970 reverse transcriptase was discovered "in connection with the replication of retroviruses."  Molecular Microbiology (1989), 1141-1144.  But you say what is reverse transcriptase?  It's an enzyme that only encodes/copies RNA in retroviruses.  In a laboratory, scientists can make reverse transcriptase do other tricks, it can also transcribe single-stranded DNA templates.  In cloning operations of DNA, reverse transcriptase is essential.  It is also commonly used to amplify DNA for PCR (which is use in diagnosing infectious diseases).  It is commercially manufactured from one of the following retroviruses: the Moloney murine leukemia virus and the Avian myeloblastosis virus.
Initially it was believed that reverse transcriptase was only found in retroviruses.  Later it was understood by some scientists that this enzyme functioned in other life forms.  Some scientists believe that reverse transcriptase is a marker for the hiv virus and is central to the belief that hiv was isolatedDoes reverse transcriptase activity in a particle mean that it is a retrovirus?  Here is a patent in which the inventors found reverse transcriptase activity in the milk of normal lactating women.
This patent is called, "Reverse transcriptase from human milk, method for its purification, and its use in the detection of breast cancer," patent # 4409200 filed in 1980.  The inventors were William F. Feller, Judith Kantor, Jack Chirikjian, and Terence Phillips and the patent was owned by Research Corporation of New York CityTheir research was funded by the US Department of Health and the US government was granted a non-exclusive royalty-free license.
             "The essence of the invention relates to the isolation, purification 
              and characterization of a reverse transcriptase enzyme from the
              milk of normal lactating humans.  This enzyme is capable of being 
              used in a binding assay for the detection of breast cancer."

Was this commercialized?  I don't know.  Research Corporation is now known as Research Corporation for Science Advancement.  It was founded in 1912 and has a long list of accomplished scientists (with patents) that they funded.  The founder of Research Corporation was Fredrick Cottrell, who became the Director of the US Bureau of Mines.
I have always wondered about the materials that are used to test for infectious disease.  Where does it come from?  Why do all antibody tests have false positives?  How pure are the materials that are used for testing of hiv?  Why are there 60 other diseases or conditions that can make a hiv test and other antibody tests become positive?  Lots of questions.  Did they ever use reverse transcriptase from human milk for PCR?  Maybe in the early days before genetic engineering took off?  Fascinating to me and maybe not too many others.  I wonder how reverse transcriptase derived from a virus or often e. coli genetically engineered can "purely" transcribe?  Does nature have purity, isolation?  Are we not a part (our cells, all cells) of the environment?  Questions, questions....
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain