Cambodia stops shady breast milk export business by US firm

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cambodian authorities have stopped a Utah, US-based company with the peculiar name of Ambrosia Labs from selling human breast milk harvested from women in Cambodia to clients in the US.

The firm’s local business premises in a suburb of Phnom Penh were shut down by Cambodian authorities on grounds that Ambrosia Labs has no permission from the Cambodian Ministry of Health to conduct such business. Interestingly, the company exported Cambodian breast milk since 2015.

Ambrosia Labs claims that it was the first to export human breast milk to the US in a business model that would be “beneficial to mothers in Cambodia” and would provide mothers in the US who have difficulties breastfeeding with the much-needed liquid. However, the fact that the milk is also sold as nutritional supplement for bodybuilders or as a “fetish” shows that Ambrosia Labs doesn’t have sole humanitarian motives.

Critics say that Ambrosia Labs’ business model was exploitative. According to AFP, the company operated from a small office in the shantytown of Stung Meanchey, a poor suburb of the capital Phnom Penh known for its massive garbage dump where rubbish collectors look for recyclables and where people live from less than $3 a day.

The company on its homepage says the milk was collected from “donors” and “healthy mothers around the world” (it does not mention it’s from Cambodia) and was “safe, pure, screened for diseases and pasteurised.”

In fact, the milk is taken in a three-story shop house with a clinic in a poor neighborhood dotted with aid organisations. The place is called kun meada“mother’s value” in Khmer. From there, recruiters carrying breast pumps with them are sent to housing communities seeking mothers who had recently given birth.

The women receive around 64 US cents for each ounce of their breast milk and usually pump around 12 ounces per day. The breast milk is then frozen, sent to a facility in Utah where it is pasteurised and then shipped all over the US. In Ambrosia’s online shop the milk is sold at a whopping yield for up to $4 per ounce.

Ambrosia Labs was founded by Bronzson Woods and his business partner Ryan Newell in 2015. Woods was serving as a Mormon missionary in Cambodia when he hit upon the idea of exporting breast milk. He keeps defending the business, saying that his company would encourage local women to continue breastfeeding and provide a steady income for their families. 

While Woods insists his business is not exploitative, critics say that Ambrosia Labs – apart from operating  on shaky ethical ground – would intentionally target poor women who lack other job options and act only out of financial pressure.

“These women do not have a chance to analyse things further. They need money,” says Ros Sopheap, director of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, rhetorically asking  “why don’t they go to the women who have good finances and education?”

Cambodia’s customs department, which on March 20 halted the breast milk exports, calls the business “a bit sensitive” and said that without permission from the health ministry it will remain suspended.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cambodian authorities have stopped a Utah, US-based company with the peculiar name of Ambrosia Labs from selling human breast milk harvested from women in Cambodia to clients in the US.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cambodian authorities have stopped a Utah, US-based company with the peculiar name of Ambrosia Labs from selling human breast milk harvested from women in Cambodia to clients in the US.

The firm’s local business premises in a suburb of Phnom Penh were shut down by Cambodian authorities on grounds that Ambrosia Labs has no permission from the Cambodian Ministry of Health to conduct such business. Interestingly, the company exported Cambodian breast milk since 2015.

Ambrosia Labs claims that it was the first to export human breast milk to the US in a business model that would be “beneficial to mothers in Cambodia” and would provide mothers in the US who have difficulties breastfeeding with the much-needed liquid. However, the fact that the milk is also sold as nutritional supplement for bodybuilders or as a “fetish” shows that Ambrosia Labs doesn’t have sole humanitarian motives.

Critics say that Ambrosia Labs’ business model was exploitative. According to AFP, the company operated from a small office in the shantytown of Stung Meanchey, a poor suburb of the capital Phnom Penh known for its massive garbage dump where rubbish collectors look for recyclables and where people live from less than $3 a day.

The company on its homepage says the milk was collected from “donors” and “healthy mothers around the world” (it does not mention it’s from Cambodia) and was “safe, pure, screened for diseases and pasteurised.”

In fact, the milk is taken in a three-story shop house with a clinic in a poor neighborhood dotted with aid organisations. The place is called kun meada“mother’s value” in Khmer. From there, recruiters carrying breast pumps with them are sent to housing communities seeking mothers who had recently given birth.

The women receive around 64 US cents for each ounce of their breast milk and usually pump around 12 ounces per day. The breast milk is then frozen, sent to a facility in Utah where it is pasteurised and then shipped all over the US. In Ambrosia’s online shop the milk is sold at a whopping yield for up to $4 per ounce.

Ambrosia Labs was founded by Bronzson Woods and his business partner Ryan Newell in 2015. Woods was serving as a Mormon missionary in Cambodia when he hit upon the idea of exporting breast milk. He keeps defending the business, saying that his company would encourage local women to continue breastfeeding and provide a steady income for their families. 

While Woods insists his business is not exploitative, critics say that Ambrosia Labs – apart from operating  on shaky ethical ground – would intentionally target poor women who lack other job options and act only out of financial pressure.

“These women do not have a chance to analyse things further. They need money,” says Ros Sopheap, director of the NGO Gender and Development for Cambodia, rhetorically asking  “why don’t they go to the women who have good finances and education?”

Cambodia’s customs department, which on March 20 halted the breast milk exports, calls the business “a bit sensitive” and said that without permission from the health ministry it will remain suspended.

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid