Sep 19, 2008

Lifestyle - Chef cooks up trouble with human milk recipes

Swiss eatery banned from serving speciality dishes for using ingredient from ‘unauthorised sources’

GENEVA: A Swiss gastronomist has stirred a controversy in the tranquil Alpine republic after announcing that he will serve meals cooked with human breast milk. The owner of the Storchen restaurant in the exclusive Winterthur resort will improve his menu with local specialities such as meat stew and various soups and sauces containing at least 75% of mother’s milk.

The Storchen restaurant, in Iberg had advertised for mothers to sell their breast milk for the special menu. But breastfeeding counsellors had labelled the project unethical. The idea was eventually scrapped after canton Zurich food inspectors said it broke regulations, and threatened to take action. “Humans are not on the list of authorised milk suppliers such as cows or sheep,” said department head Rolf Etter.

The food control authority was initially confused by the apparent loophole in local legislation regulating the use of human milk and it was not clear whether Locher could actually be banned from serving his specialities. The restaurant has been banned from serving up dishes containing human milk on the grounds that the “ingredient” derives from an unauthorised source.

Restaurant landlord Hans Locher was unrepentant about his controversial plan and was disappointed with the ban. “The idea is over now and I think it’s totally wrong,” he said.
Locher had planned to serve up human milk in dishes of soup, antelope steak with sauce and the classic dish of Zürcher Geschnetzeltes — bite sized pieces of meat in a creamy sauce. The Storchen, which coincidentally means Stork in English, would have served up these delicacies during a series of special offer weeks.

“We have all been raised on it. Why should we not include it into our diet?” Hans Locher, who has become Switzerland most controversial restaurant owner, said. Locher had posted ads looking for women donors, who will receive just over three pounds for 14 ounces of their milk.

“Humans as producers of milk are simply not envisaged in the legislation. “They are not on the list of approved species such as cows and sheep, but they are also not on the list of the banned species such as apes and primates,” Rolf Etter of the Zurich food control laboratory said.

The human milk menu also attracted the attention of the Swiss association of breastfeeding counsellors, which objected to mothers being offered cash for milk intended for their babies. “This raises questions. It is not a good idea to pay for milk because it might tempt mothers to put profit before their children,” spokeswoman Christa Müller-Aregger said.

She also raised doubts about the scheme. “When hospitals stockpile milk banks the mothers and their milk are always given a health check. If a mother takes drugs or smokes then you find traces in the milk,” she said. “Human milk is designed for babies and not to be of nutritional value for adults.”

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