Kim’s done it. Gwyn’s done it. Even Alicia has done it. But Public Protection Officials from Swindon Borough Council don’t want anyone else to do it.
They’ve taken a woman to court for offering placenta smoothies and pills to new mothers over concerns that consuming the organ could pose a health hazard if not handled correctly.
Kathryn Beale, a mother of two from Swindon and a member of the Independent Placenta Encapsulation Network (“bringing the placenta back into post-birth healing”), had been offering new mothers the opportunity to eat their placentas following the birth of their children for two years, having taken a course in safe handling of the afterbirth, according to The Times.
It’s been a staple of chinese medicine, in dried form, for thousands of years, but although the practice is growing more popular after celebrities including Kim Kardashain, Gwynneth Paltrow and Alicia Silverstone all endorsed it, health officials at the Council objected on safety grounds and applied to Swindon Magistrates court for an emergency order to prevent her.
Mrs Beale charges £50 for a smoothie, prepared using pieces of raw placenta mixed with soft fruit such as strawberries and blueberries. The remains of the organ are then dried, powdered, and put into capsules.
Advocates of the practice say that nutrients found in the organ, which filters nutrients to the unborn baby before birth and is expelled from the womb after the birth of the child, can offer positive health benefits to both mother and child. Critics say there is no scientific evidence to prove that eating the placenta can have positive effects.
But it has long proved controversial: last December the founder of IPEN was banned from making placenta based products for human consumption on hygiene grounds after being taken to court by Dacorum Borough Council in Hertfordshire. And in 1997, Channel 4 was reprimanded after allowing tv chef Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall to serve placenta pate on a program called TV Dinners.
In Mrs Beale’s case, Swindon council officers objected to the procedure on safety grounds after being inadvertently tipped off by a potential customer who asked the council for Mrs Beale’s food hygiene rating.
A spokesman for the council said: “While the health benefits of this activity are not clear, the processes involved in the production of human placenta for human consumption present a number of potentially serious health risks, which explains this action.”
The magistrates rejected the application by the council on the grounds that emergency action was not necessary, but Mrs Beale was ordered to stop making any more placenta-based products until her premises had been inspected by council officers.
Mrs Beale said: “Most species of mammal eat their own placenta straight after birth. It is normal in the animal kingdom and we are unusual in that we don’t routinely do it. After giving birth most mothers are anaemic to some extent. Placenta is full of iron so it helps with that. It also helps with postnatal depression and milk production.”