HARRISBURG – Seeking to ensure that medically fragile newborns have access to life-saving nutrition, Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest) today secured House passage of her legislation to license and regulate human donor milk banks in Pennsylvania.
“Donor breast milk is life-saving medicine for infants with low birth weights of less than 4 pounds, and prevents the onset of serious gastrointestinal problems that require surgery and entail thousands of dollars in medical costs,” Oberlander explained. “In order to ensure that these infants receive the best possible human donor milk, the facilities collecting and processing the milk should meet appropriate health and safety standards.”
According to the March of Dimes, breast milk has demonstrated health benefits for pre-term and very low birth weight babies. Nearly 14,000 babies are born pre-term in Pennsylvania each year, which cost more than $1 billion in medical costs last year alone.
House Bill 1001
would call on the PA Department of Health to license milk banks, if they comply with the law, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) or another nationally recognized accrediting organization for the operation of milk banks. They must certify the milk bank as a member in good standing.
Under the bill, milk banks would be required to medically screen donors and to contact the health care provider of the donor’s baby to verify adequate growth. The donor milk must be processed to inactivate pathogens (pasteurized), and post-processing bacterial cultures must be performed.
The Department of Health, which must inspect the facilities, would have the option of allowing accreditation from a recognized professional organization (for example, HMBANA) to fulfill the requirements for licensure if it determines the guidelines of that organization are rigorous and sufficient.
“The safety of human breast milk is paramount, when considering that medically fragile infants are the recipients of this highly sought source of nutrition, and we want to make sure that the entities that are collecting and processing it are held to the highest safety and ethical standards,” said Oberlander, who sponsored similar legislation last session.
This legislation would also create licensing fees and establish prohibited practices that preclude the direct or indirect sale of human milk by any entity not licensed in Pennsylvania. The proposal does not regulate mothers who wish to donate their excess milk.
Currently, the 24 existing milk banks distribute less than 6 million ounces of break milk each year, while intensive care units alone demand over 63 million ounces annually. As a result, many parents use unregulated online marketplaces to purchase human breast milk. This is a serious issue, and the Food and Drug Administration recommends against feeding infants breast milk acquired directly from individuals or through the internet.
This legislation enjoys the support of fellow milk banks and many medical professionals, including key organizations and physicians who understand the importance of donated mothers’ milk.
The legislation, which is part of the House Republican Caucus’ Strengthening Families and Protecting Communities package, now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
Representative Donna Oberlander
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton