US-based Ambrosia Labs was paying Cambodian women 64 cents for 30ml of breast milk that was then being sold in the US for $4
On Monday, Cambodia’s government temporarily banned exports of breast milk to the US by Ambrosia Labs, the only company currently shipping Cambodian breast milk to the US.
Ambrosia Labs has been selling Cambodian breast milk for more than a year, but the practice recently received wider attention when a report in Broadly, a US-based publication, revealed the disparity between the remuneration paid to Ambrosia Labs’ Cambodian workers and the price of the breast milk it was selling in the US.
According to the report, the women providing the milk were usually paid less than $10 a day. Ambrosia Labs, however, was charging $200 for a pack of ten 150ml frozen breast milk packets.
The Cambodian Ministry of Health and other authorities plan to look into the practice of selling Cambodian breast milk to determine if it is legal and not harmful to the women and children involved.
“The big concern is about Cambodian children’s nutrition,” Rath Nisay, legal officer at the General Department of Customs and Excise, told the Phnom Penh Post. “We suspended the exports because we are not sure if the mother provides enough breast milk to their baby or if they only keep breast milk for selling and find other food for the baby.”
Several people expressed their disappointment at the government’s decision to suspend the practice.
Chea Sam, a 30-year-old mother, told AFP that she had been earning up to $10 a day, six days a week, selling her breast milk over the past three months.
“I am poor, and selling breast milk helped me a lot,” she said. “We all cried when the company informed us about the suspension. We want it to be in business.”