Before committee: Regulation of human milk banks

TRENTON – Two bills dealing with breast milk will be before the Assembly Women and Children Committee next week.

The proposals, sponsored by committee Chair Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, (D-6), Voorhees, would address an unregulated practice – human milk banks – and a potentially risky practice – milk sharing.

Human milk banks – places that collect, store and distribute donated human breast milk – are largely unregulated nationwide.

The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate them, and only three states do so: New York, Maryland and California, Lampitt said.

“We are trying to be ahead of the curve as opposed to being behind,” she said. “We don’t want to wait until we hear about the first case of some baby who died from tainted breast milk.” 

The bill would mandate a person operating such a bank be licensed by the state Health Department, require the Department to establish rules for such banks, and the state would be given authority to initiate legal action against banks that violate regulations.

Because of the lack of regulations now, the state has no idea how many unofficial milk banks might be operating in New Jersey nor how many people may be using them, Lampitt explained.

The state has no idea what – if any – screening occurs at such banks, which are used by women who have had mastectomies or for some other health reason cannot use their own milk.

“So much is passed on through mothers’ milk,’’ Lampitt said, “both good and bad in terms of health-related issues.”

This was a concern that was exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy last year.

“Even during Sandy, there were people trying to sell milk on websites because it was going to go bad because they didn’t have refrigeration,’’ Lampitt said.

It became apparent that this “industry’’ had to be regulated as a public health issue, she said.  Whether it’s a local consortium of women, a kind of hostel system or some kind of “rogue’’ set-up, standards at such banks have to be created for the protection of women and babies, she said.

In addition to A3703, Lampitt will have another bill up on Monday, A3702, which will require a public health campaign be staged to inform pregnant women and new mothers about the risks of so-called “casual’’ milk sharing.

That includes informal arrangements in which a woman bypasses a bank altogether and donates her own milk to a parent who is unable to nurse.

Before committee: Regulation of human milk banks