Cambodia on Tuesday officially banned the selling and exporting of locally-pumped human breast milk to the United States, putting an end to the business of a U.S.-based company that had been selling the milk.
The decision, it was learnt, was made after reports exposed how women were turning to the controversial trade to boost meagre incomes in one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries.
Reuters gathered that the decision was welcomed by United Nations Child Agency (UNICEF), as the agency had expressed lamentation at a decline in breastfeeding in Cambodia.
The order is coming after Cambodia temporarily halted breast milk exports by Utah-based Ambrosia Labs, which claims to be the first firm to source the product from overseas and distribute it in the United States.
Ambrosia Labs – known in Cambodia as Khun Meada, which means “gratitude of mothers”, had been exporting milk from more than 90 Cambodian women for more than two years.
The purchase and export of breast milk must stop immediately, Ngor Hong Ly, a Secretary of State at the Council of Ministers, said in an order on Tuesday.
“Despite how poor and difficult Cambodia is, it’s not at a level where we sell breast milk,” Ngor Hong Ly wrote.
The milk was pumped by poor Cambodian women in the capital Phnom Penh and then shipped to the US, where it was pasteurised and sold for $20 per 5 oz (147 ml) pack.
The company’s customers are American mothers who want to supplement their babies’ diets or cannot produce enough milk of their own.
On Tuesday, Cambodia’s cabinet ordered the health ministry to “take actions to immediately prevent the purchasing and exporting of breast milk from mothers from Cambodia,” according to a letter seen by AFP.