Human placenta products for consumption not authorized in Canada, may pose serious health risks

Starting date:
November 27, 2018
Type of communication:
Information Update
Subcategory:
Natural health products
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Identification number:
RA-68368

Issue

November 27, 2018
For immediate release

OTTAWA – Health Canada is aware of individuals and companies that are offering processing services for the preparation of the placenta for consumption. While consuming placenta is a personal choice, we are advising mothers, and others who may be consuming placenta preparations that they should be aware of the potential risks associated with the practice for themselves and their babies. There is currently no scientific evidence that supports claims of health benefits associated with consuming human placenta.

There are a range of methods used to prepare placenta prior to consumption including steaming, cooking, dehydrating and encapsulating. Placenta products prepared by a third party are considered drugs and therefore subject to the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations. Information about the safety and efficacy of the product must be submitted to Health Canada for review and obtain approval before they can be sold.  To date, Health Canada has not authorized any health products containing human placenta for consumption in Canada.

Human placenta is a biologic material and can contain infectious agents such as bacteria (eg Group B Streptococcus) and viruses (eg hepatitis, or HIV).  In addition, the preparation process itself has the potential to introduce infectious agents into the product.  Consuming human placenta containing bacteria or viruses may lead to infections in mothers or their babies, and the risk is higher if someone ingests the placenta of another person.

In addition to its concerns about the transmission of bacterial or viral infections, Health Canada is concerned that health claims associated with human placenta for consumption could lead mothers with serious health issues to delay seeking medical treatment. These health claims allege that human placenta for consumption will help prevent postpartum depression, increase energy levels, or increase breast milk production.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the case of an infant who had been hospitalized for an infection from a bacteria found in the placenta pills his mother had been consuming.

In January 2018, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has also advised of the potential risks associated with placenta consumption and warned that it is an offence to make therapeutic biological products without holding the appropriate licence.

Health Canada has sent several compliance letters to clinics and individuals offering human placenta encapsulation services to clarify regulatory requirements and will take action should any risk to health be identified.

Canadians are encouraged to report the potential non-compliant sale or advertising of human placentas for consumption, or other similar products, by submitting a complaint to Health Canada using its online complaint form.

Any adverse events from health products, including human placenta for consumption, can be reported to Health Canada by calling toll-free at 1-866-234­-2345, or by reporting online, by mail or by fax.

Health Canada advises women to consult with their healthcare practitioner about which health products and treatments are suitable for them.

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