PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia has suspended the export of human breast milk, a business pioneered last year by a former Mormon missionary.
A legal officer at Cambodia’s Customs Department, Rath Nisay, said Tuesday that Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth recently signed a letter effectively stopping the sole exporter – U.S. company Ambrosia Labs Ltd. – from carrying out its business. The product is marketed as food for babies and as a supplement for adults with special needs, such as bodybuilders, and sells for as much as $4 an ounce.
He said the suspension was mainly because of concerns about the health effect on babies of nursing mothers selling their milk, and that the Health Ministry would have to determine if human milk should be subject to regulation in the same category as human organs.
Bronzson Woods, the founder of Utah-based Ambrosia Labs, could not be reached for comment, but said in an interview last year with the Salt Lake Tribune that donors’ children were required to be at least 6 months old as advised by the World Health Organization to ensure they receive proper nourishment from their mothers’ milk.
A woman who worked for Ambrosia Labs’ affiliated company and supplier in Cambodia, Kun Meada, or Mother Gratitude, said it stopped collecting breast milk about a week ago because the company is applying for a license from the Health Ministry.
Kong Sopheakdey said about 20 women, mostly poor and living in slum areas, supply milk to the company, and each is paid 2,000 riel (50 cents) an ounce.
The company also provides bonuses for extra production and pays for transport to its office, she said. It also provides a free medical checkup to make sure the mothers are in good health and produce enough milk.
Nhem Channy, 29, said she has been selling her breast milk since she had her second child and earns about $12 per day, supplying once in the morning and once in the afternoon. She had been a trash collector until a neighbor told her about the opportunity to sell her breast milk. Her husband is a construction worker but doesn’t have regular work.
She said she cried when she heard about the export suspension because she supports her family, including three children, with her sales of breast milk.
“Now the company is closed, what will happen to our lives, we will live with hunger,” she said in a telephone interview.
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