Placenta Encapsulation – UK current climate
Placenta encapsulation is under intense scrutiny at this moment in time, and from many different angles. The Food Standards Agency (FSA), Environmental Health Officers within local councils (EHO’s), Trading Standards Officers (TSO’s), the Advertising Standard Agency (ASA), the media, bloggers, and various health professionals, are all taking the time to have an input on Placenta Businesses and how they should be run, or whether they should run at all.
Let’s take them one at a time so that you are aware of the impact each element is having on Placenta Businesses in the UK:
FSA – Food Standards Agency
The FSA have been looking in to the placenta being placed on the Novel Food list since 2014. To be placed on this list the service that we provide must fall in to the following two categories:
Any food and food ingredient that hasn’t been used in the EU for human consumption to a significant degree before May 1997.
The food must also be one of the following:
- food ingredients with a new or intentionally modified primary molecular structure
- micro-organisms, fungi, algae or cell culture
- plants or animals
- food produced by new production process that significantly changes the product nutritionally or in relation to the food safety risks
- minerals or engineered nano-materials
We do not believe that placenta should be on this list as it does not meet two of these criteria.
The FSA are looking to make the practice of placenta processing safe, they would like standards to be met by ALL placenta remedy specialists and are keen to get these in place as soon as they can, they have committed that there will be an update by early 2019, the following is a statement from the FSA made in September 2018.
“The Food Standards Agency is undertaking a project to provide guidance to local authorities to help their management of placenta processing businesses and consistency in the approach across the UK.
We’re aware that the consumption of human placenta is a sensitive issue, as mothers understandably consider that it is their choice whether they consume their own placenta, and the link this has to their birthing decisions. Our priority is to ensure that mothers choosing to use businesses which prepare their placenta are able to do so safely. At this time, the FSA has not yet made a final decision on whether placenta is considered as a novel food.
The focus of the project in developing the guidance for local authorities includes:
- Consideration of the status of placenta under food law including consideration of the legal definition of food and status under novel food legislation
- Consideration of how placenta processing businesses fit within the food law framework including applicability of the food hygiene legislation and registration
- A review of the literature to identify current available evidence on the hazards and risks associated with consuming placenta
- Consideration of how identified risks including hygiene considerations can be managed effectively
The project will not look at the consumption of placenta which is prepared by the mother or anyone other than by a food business for consumption by that mother, which is entirely an issue of personal choice and does not fall within the scope of food hygiene legislation. Nor will it consider the efficacy or benefits of the practice for mothers. The focus will be the safe preparation of the placenta.
As part of this project we’re looking at the possible hazards and risks of consuming placenta and what steps can be taken to mitigate these. We’re carrying out a literature review to assess the scientific evidence, but we are also seeking some further information from some local authorities and placenta processing businesses.”
All placenta remedies service providers should hold health and safety certificates in infection control, food hygiene and HAACP. as well as having undertaken practical training as a placenta remedies service provider and ensuring their knowledge and skills are regularly updated. This ensures the safety of the service provided and the end product for the new parent consuming their placenta.
EHO – Environmental Health Officer
As part of the PR|SM training you will be advised to register as a Food Business with your EHO from the offset. We ask for you to let us know which council you will be needing to register with, as not all councils are currently allowing placenta remedy providers to practice and therefore we can support you in your area to find a solution before investing in your new business.
The majority of EHO’s in the UK have agreed that placenta remedies providers who are trained, hold a personal FSMS (Food Safety Management System) & HACCP training and procedures, and are up to date with all hygiene certificates, can continue providing a service to their clients UNTIL at least a decision is made on the Novel Food status, with two areas in the UK, where EHO’s have requested that placenta remedies providers cease trading until a decision is made.
TSO – Trading Standards Officer
In one area, a TSO has asked a business owner to stop providing services to their clients. The TSO is working alongside the EHO for the council in question, but thus far have provided no paperwork to evidence the need for closure, and no prohibition notification so this business is still open.
ASA – Advertising Standards Agency
We are waiting to hear about advertising standards from the ASA after Placenta Remedies Network made a request for information regarding marketing. PR|SM have not been contacted by the ASA, however at least one business has. We are currently advised that claims of effect cannot be made even if they are anecdotal – evidence must exist. You may use reviews from clients to show how they believe that their remedies worked for them, whilst for marketing purposes you cannot make these claims as a business. There is no scientific evidence for any of the existing claims previously made by trainers and businesses, and until there is we cannot shout about them.
The media, bloggers and Health Professionals
There are regular stories in the papers and online about the effects of placentophagy. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but it is important to respond to these articles in a positive and polite manner, whilst sharing the evidence that we do have for example the research from recent investigation about the safety of placenta encapsulation at Jena University in Germany and other previous studies from around the globe.
Some of the negative stories include health professionals who believe that the consumption of the placenta leads to a failure to thrive in newborn babies. The recent JENA study shows…….and Placenta Remedies Network have feedback from hundreds of women across the world who believe that their placenta remedies improved their breastmilk production.
Some bloggers and lactation consultants from around the world have mentioned the devastating case in the US where a baby was reinfected from Group B Strep and sadly died. This was blamed on the placenta pills that the mother was taking, despite the fact there was NO GBS bacteria found in her breastmilk that could have reinfected the baby.
The media are also consistently criticising new mothers for most things in the world of pregnancy, birth and parenting, relish in reporting about placenta encapsulation when a celebrity mother decided to consume her placenta. Sometimes the press is positive and outweighs the bad press. Some articles state that the practice of encapsulation is “dangerous”, “gross”, and has no scientific evidence to back up why a woman would want to do this.
Birth is always a current affair; midwives are struggling to have the time to hear women’s voices, their choices and the decisions that the family may have come to; families are having to request information regarding statistics and evidence as when they find the advice given may not be providing as a rounded, balanced views when discussing birth options and outcomes.
Working with new families, as they weave their way through the world of maternity, we have to respectfully fit in to their birth story.