A friend of ours asked us a simple enough question: is it legal for restaurants to serve breast milk? No, we don’t mean, “is it legal for women to breastfeed in restaurants,” because it is. Adults certainly can consume breast milk safely, and occasionally do. Also, it’s legal to buy it, albeit with a prescription. Surely a restaurant could get around that issue by contracting a lactating friend or relative of the restaurateur (or a post-partum restaurateur herself!) to supply the fluid, much like certain chefs have rooftop gardens whence they pick fresh herbs for dinner. Beyond the contention that any excess breast milk ought to be donated to a milk bank for needy new mothers, if properly labeled on the menu, we don’t see any ethical problem with this hypothetical practice. Whether anyone would actually order it or not is beyond the scope of this inquiry. (apparently, back in 2003, a breast milk-centric restaurant opened in China to much criticism and ambiguity of the law. It’s unclear what’s happened since.)
So what might make this illegal? Selling body fluids is generally countermanded (we exclusively donate blood and organs, for example), but selling breast milk for adult consumption is underlegislated, as far as we can tell. Maybe the FDA would demand that it be pasteurized? Nah, raw milk is a huge craze these days, and while difficult to obtain, is not outright illegal. We don’t think this would be covered by any cannibalism laws, do you?
Failing pre-existing restrictions, the city of San Francisco could pass a human milk ban, much like the plastic bag ordinance, but that’s really getting ahead of ourselves. So, we open the floor: does anyone have any insight into this pressing legal issue? How detailed and tangled are the federal, state and city rules for what restaurants can serve, and do they, together, rule out breast milk? Slightly twisted minds want to know.
Section 43.3 [California Civil Code]
Breast milk Cannibal [AustinMama]
How to Buy Breastmilk [eHow]
Breast milk enters Chinese cuisine [BBCNews]
[Photo: frozen breast milk, hoi polloi/flickr]