It’s not unheard of to sell or buy breast milk here in the United States. Plenty of mothers who are unable to breastfeed successfully seek out these services. Plenty other moms who have a generous supply are more than happy to sell theirs. One company even began seeking out mothers in Cambodia to sell their milk in a business move many have called controversial. Well, the controversy continues as the Cambodian Ministry of Health has now asked them to cease importation until further notice.
The Utah-based Ambrosia Labs began operating in 2015, setting up shop in Phnom Penh to find qualifying lactating mothers. The women needed to have breastfed exclusively for six months, as well as undergo health screens that are more thorough than those required by the Food and Drug Administration.
However, Ambrosia has now been forced to halt its operations.
“We have asked [Ambrosia] to contact the Ministry of Health because the product comes from a human organ, so it need permission from the Ministry of Health but they did not get it yet,” said Kun Nhem, General Director of Customs and Excise, in a report from Agence France-Press. Surprising, though, that the Ministry did not get in touch sooner. According to Nhem, government officials will soon get together to settle on a breast milk exportation policy, which will determine the future of Ambrosia.
Additionally, some find it problematic that Ambrosia only pays their mothers $0.64 per ounce, while selling each ounce at a rate of about $4. Comparatively, you can find ads on reputable sites here in the States of women selling their breast milk for about $1-3 an ounce. While Ambrosia argues that these mothers are still making way more than the average woman in Cambodia, should they still be underpaid?
We’ll have to wait and see what happens. For now, it might be best to obtain breast milk from local mothers we know are being paid a fair wage.