Humans have developed some curious rationales for various food taboos. Now a Swiss restaurateur has been banned from serving dishes prepared with human breast milk. This ban would seem to be the most convoluted and lacking in underlying principle.
On one hand we have most humans on the planet having consumed this product at some time in their life. And the medical evidence is quite clear on the fact that children who do consume this product have higher immunity levels and are likely to perform better on a number of cognitive and behavioural tests. And the overwhelming view of child health professionals is that, “the longer children consume this product the better it is for them”.
It is also a fact that there is no restriction on the source of this product. So-called “wet nurses” have been part of human culture for millennia and this supply has nearly always been associated with some sort of exchange of money or kind. So there is clearly no cultural objection to the commercial sale of human breast milk for consumption by other humans.
There is also no hint of exploitation or coercion associated with the trade as it is entirely within a context of informed consent and conscionable conduct.
It is also the case that devices to assist with the mechanical extraction of human breastmilk are freely available for sale and have been extensively tested and trialled to the extent that there are no issues in respect of health or safety of either supplier or consumer. Any other issues, in respect of the passing on of communicable diseases etc, are already well catered for (sic) by existing food standards and legislation.
So what we are left with is a taboo that is not based on the product itself, not based on the source of supply of that product, not based on the human-to-human dimension of the transaction and not based on the commercial nature of the transaction. It is also the case that there is no prohibition on the non-commercial use of human breast milk, for example, where a woman could use her own milk in a dish prepared for her family. Indeed, some could argue that this would represent the ultimate act of nurturing by a loving mother or wife.
No, this taboo is solely based on the age of the human consumer and the arms length nature of the transaction. Neither of which appear to have any relationship to the actual participants. It is a taboo that is entirely within the mind of non-participants with no identifiable adverse social consequences.
And as duly elected “Chief Glutton” of a group of culinary wanderers called “The Restless Palates”, I don’t think I will ever look upon a fine buxom lass in the same light, ever again. It puts an entirely new meaning to the term, “guess who is coming to dinner?”
Breast milk delicacies off the menu
September, 19, 2008. NineMSN