BREAST MILK

Utah-based firm told to seek health min­istry’s ap­proval to con­tinue busi­ness

New Straits Times - - World -

PH­NOM PENH

CAM­BO­DIA has tem­po­rar­ily stopped an Amer­i­can com­pany from ex­port­ing lo­cal­ly­pumped hu­man breast milk af­ter re­ports high­lighted how some of the coun­try’s poor­est women were sup­ple­ment­ing their income through the trade.

Utah-based com­pany Am­brosia Labs claims to be the first of its kind to ex­port hu­man breast milk sourced over­seas, into the United States for moth­ers who want to sup­ple­ment their ba­bies’ di­ets or can­not sup­ply enough of their own milk.

The milk is col­lected in Cam­bo­dia, frozen and shipped to the States, where it is pas­teurised and sold by the com­pany for US$20 (RM88.60) each 147ml pack.

But on Mon­day, Cam­bo­dia’s Cus­toms Depart­ment con­firmed it had halted ex­ports.

“We have asked them (the com­pany) to con­tact the Min­istry of Health be­cause the prod­uct comes from a hu­man or­gan, so it needs per­mis­sion from the Min­istry of Health, but they did not get it yet,” Kun Nhem, gen­eral di­rec­tor of Cus­toms and Ex­cise, said.

He said gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials were plan­ning to meet soon to “de­ter­mine a pol­icy about the prod­uct be­cause it is a bit sen­si­tive”.

AFP vis­ited the of­fices of Am­brosia Labs last week in Stung Meanchey, a poor sub­urb in the cap­i­tal Ph­nom Penh.

The of­fice, which uses the name Khun Meada, was shut­tered. Lo­cal women who sold their milk said they had been told busi­ness op­er­a­tions had been sus­pended, but they did not know why.

Chea Sam, a 30-year-old mother, said she had been sell­ing her breast milk for the last three months fol­low­ing the birth of her son.

“I got my milk pumped six days per week and I earned be­tween 30,000 and 40,000 riel (RM33 to RM44) a day based on the quan­tity of our breast milk,” said.

“I am poor, and sell­ing breast milk helped me a lot,” she added.

“We all cried when the com­pany in­formed us about the sus­pen­sion.

“We want it to be in busi­ness,” she added, say­ing they knew of at least 20 other moth­ers who made money through their milk.

Cam­bo­dia re­mains one of Asia’s poor­est na­tions, with an av­er­age an­nual income per per­son of US$1,160 (RM5,137).

Am­brosia Labs did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

But in an in­ter­view with a Cam­bo­dia-based re­porter pub­lished on Vice.com last week, co­founder Bronz­son Woods de­fended the busi­ness.

He said he hit upon the idea while work­ing in the coun­try as a Mor­mon mis­sion­ary and that his com­pany en­cour­aged lo­cal women to con­tinue breast­feed­ing and pro­vide a steady income.

In a video up­loaded to a YouTube ac­count us­ing the name Khun Meada, a Western man iden­ti­fy­ing him­self as the fa­ther of Bronz­son Woods asked Cam­bo­dia to al­low a re­sump­tion of ex­ports. A royal car­riage car­ry­ing the cof­fin of the late Cam­bo­dian for­mer Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Sok An dur­ing his fu­neral cer­e­mony in Ph­nom Penh, Cam­bo­dia. Thou­sands of Cam­bo­di­ans gath­ered to hon­our the of­fi­cial be­fore his cre­ma­tion af­ter he died on March 15 in China at the age of 66. EPA PIC

“I’m con­fi­dent that as the gov­ern­ment here un­der­stands the good that this is do­ing that they will be on board,” he said.

He added that the com­pany had pre­vi­ously been al­lowed to ex­port milk on six pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions.

Cam­bo­dia’s Min­istry of Health did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. AFP

AFP PIC

A man rid­ing a mo­tor­bike past the of­fices of Am­brosia Labs in the Stung Meanchey neigh­bour­hood of Ph­nom Penh. Cam­bo­dia has tem­po­rar­ily stopped an Amer­i­can com­pany from ex­port­ing lo­cally-pumped hu­man breast milk.

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