What are the hazards associated with human maternal placentophagy and what conclusions can be drawn on its safety for human consumption?
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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The ingestion of a postpartum placenta defines placentophagy. Although the practice is absent as an instinctive behaviour in humans, human maternal placentophagy has started to emerge in popular culture. Healthcare advocates and the media have glamorised the postpartum health benefits following placentophagy. As a result of this, the practice is increasingly in the public eye and more and more women are choosing human maternal placentophagy as part of a route to postpartum recovery. The literature was critically reviewed to identify associated hazards with placentophagy and to draw conclusions on its safety for consumption. Although research has identified the retention of nutrients and hormones in placenta both postpartum and following processing for encapsulation, a critical review of the literature has highlighted a number of risks to health associated with the practice. These include the retention of toxic elements in placenta prepared for human consumption and their passing to the foetus through contaminated breast milk, and the potential for the placenta to be contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus through vaginal delivery. Many different priorities throughout the birthing process give rise to the growth of staphylococcal enterotoxins which, when ingested, can cause severe gastrointestinal health effects. These include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and diarrhoea. The Food Standards Agency are yet to confirm their decision to class placenta as a novel food. Doing so will ban the production and processing of human placenta for consumption throughout the European Union. However, until then, the operation of food businesses providing post-partum placental services have a duty to operate within legislative regulations such as EU 852/2004 and 178/2002.
BSc (Hons) Environmental Health
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