Beds, Herts & Bucks

Placenta smoothies firm in 'health risk' case

Baby breastfeeding
Image caption IPEN claims eating the placenta helps a mother's milk production

A company that processes raw placentas for new mothers to eat could be shut down over health fears.

The Independent Placenta Encapsulation Network (IPEN), based in Herts, makes smoothies and capsules that it claims have health benefits.

Dacorum Borough Council prevented IPEN from trading in October last year over concerns about bacterial contamination.

The case, believed to be the first of its kind, was heard before Watford magistrates and judgement reserved.

'Hazard to health'

District Judge Annabel Pilling heard that IPEN founder Lynnea Shrief, of Berkhamsted, set up the company after her own struggle to provide enough breast milk for her baby.

She claims eating the raw placenta can increase breast milk supply, help reduce the impact of post-natal depression and improve general mood and a sense of well-being.

IPEN had been trading for two and a half years when it was given an Emergency Prohibition Notice by the council in October.

The council's barrister Nicholas George said the bacteria staphylococcus aureus, present in the vagina of 10% of women, could be passed on to the placenta.

This presented a "hazard" and a risk to health in what he described as a "significant proportion" of women.

He added that the production process was out of the control of IPEN, which relied on the mother or partner to properly look after the placenta before it came to IPEN to be processed.

'Trust the consumer'

IPEN argued that the placenta should be cooled to 8 degrees Celsius within four hours of birth, is cool when they receive it and therefore presented no threat to health.

Bradley Say, for IPEN - which is challenging the prohibition notice - said the company always asked for a history of each placenta and would refuse any that had been left at room temperature for 24 hours.

He said all IPEN could do was issue good advice and trust the consumer to look after their own health.

"The law does not need to step in and protect people when what they are eating is a product of themselves," he told the court.

The court heard that women asked to complete feedback forms after consuming placenta products from IPEN had not reported any ill-effects.

District Judge Pilling said she was unlikely to hand down her judgement before the end of next week.

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