TODAY   |  October 21, 2013

Rossen: Online breast milk may put babies at risk

TODAY’s investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen looks into a growing trend of mothers buying breast milk online that could be putting babies at risk, as it could contain harmful bacteria.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back at 7:43 and this morning on rossen reports, a growing new trend that could be putting babies at risk. mothers that buy breast milk online. jeff rossen has the story. good morning.

>> good morning. doctors say breast milk is best for your baby to women feel a lot of pressure to do it. but what happens when they can't produce milk for themselves? some are turning to popular websites to buy breast milk paying $2 an ounce. but according to a new study this morning, many bottles could be contaminated with everything from staph to salmonella.

>> reporter: it's a booming business, women selling breast milk online. promising their milk is healthy, high quality and nutritious. we found thousands of ads.

>> look at these postings from moms.

>> reporter: when we ordered some, the milk was at our doorstep in days. fast and convenient which is why more and more new moms are buying it.

>> i have always heard that breast is best.

>> reporter: kelsey tried to breast feed her son, bentley. but when she couldn't she got desperate and responded to an ad on this popular website. only the and bought 150 ounces of breast milk from a woman in a different state.

>> i had a lot of friends who when i told them about this and family members who said to me, why would you do that? why would you let your son have somebody else's breast milk ? i just thought to myself, well, that's what he needs.

>> reporter: while doctors recommend breast feeding for infants, what's really in some milk sold on the internet may stop moms in their tracks.

>> oh, this milk is totally thawed.

>> reporter: scientists at nationwide children's hospital tested samples of breast milk they bought online. the results released this morning in the journal of pediatrics. researchers found most of the samples, 74% were contaminated.

>> we found staph bacteria, strep bacteria, salmonella and also bacteria usually found in human waste .

>> and this can make a baby sick.

>> that's right. anything from mild diarrhea to even infant deaths.

>> reporter: while the website offers tips for keeping milk safe, researchers say that's not enough.

>> all the milk is still frozen.

>> reporter: even though the milk we bought was shipped cold, researchers say it could still be bad. bacteria already growing inside.

>> the women selling the milk say i'm healthy. i'm disease free. i workout a lot. it's good quality milk. can you believe them.

>> you don't know if it's breast milk . you don't know what's done to it. it could be cows milk or infant formula or something else.

>> reporter: that's why kelsey stopped buying milk from strangers online, fearing for her son's safety.

>> if i knew about all the research and what they found in the breast milk , it probably would have scared me off.

>> there is no telling how many children may have gotten sick from this. the fda says you shouldn't do it. you shouldn't buy breast milk from strangers warning of the risk. in fact, that website in the piece had a big announcement over the weekend. because of the safety concerns women will no longer be able to post ads selling their milk. instead they're going to start a milk bank that screens donors and verifies it's safe. we have a link on the website. we'll help you find the milk bank closest to you for the desperate moms that the doctors say you need to get breast milk somehow.

>> you want to make sure it's getting screened, though. thank