Innovative techniques to ensure the safety and quality of human donor milk

The Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition has published a paper on innovative techniques to ensure the safety and quality of human donor milk (‘Human Milk Processing: A Systematic Review of Innovative Techniques to the Ensure Safety and Quality of Donor Milk‘). The paper is a joint systematic review with medical KOLs and the second largest HMB association in EU, leveraging the master thesis of Nikki Emmerik earlier this year who works at Danone Nutricia Research as part of the Human Milk Research team.

Breastfeeding is the golden standard for providing young infants with the nutrients they require for healthy growth and development. In addition, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond (1). When breastfeeding is not possible or cannot be given, human donor milk represents the best alternative. However, milk delivered to Human Milk Banks should be pasteurised to inactivate life-threatening viral and bacterial agents. A pasteurisation process at 62.5°C for 30 min. (Holder pasteurisation), is currently recommended in all international human milk banks guidelines. Nevertheless, Holder pasteurisation has been shown to reduce important nutritional and non-nutritional biological factors, such as immunological factors, in human milk

The present systematic review aimed at critically reviewing evidence on the suitability of human milk processing techniques. Holder pasteurisation, both thermal and non-thermal, was investigated to confirm microbiological safety and the effect of the techniques on biologically active donor milk components. The paper concludes that fundamental knowledge on novel human milk treatments and their effects on safety and composition are still lacking, and extensive research is required. Moreover, other newly available techniques should be tested or the combination of different novel approaches. In addition, technical and safety measurements of new methods for the treatment of human milk samples should be accompanied by new, validated bio-analytical techniques and assays, to determine the most relevant functional ingredients for the nutrition and health benefits of those infants who receive donor milk.

Human milk is the preferred feeding option for preterm infants. However, as human milk is not nutrient enriched enough to meet the high requirements of extreme and very premature infants, fortification of human milk is required (2-4). Human milk fortification is associated with benefits for healthy growth and development for the preterm infant.

The paper supports Nutricia’s Human Milk Research and Preterm Science. It demonstrates that after 100 years of safety focus for human milk banks, now safety and function matters, and is just the beginning of a new process with long-term consequences. We as Danone Nutricia Research are part of this journey to help infants to receive the best human milk. This translates into our program on preterm nutrition to have the best nutritional solutions available and to support breastfeeding by providing solutions that are and can be further personalised to individual needs.


  1. World Health Organization (2001) Kramer, M. S., & Kakuma, R. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding (Review).
  2. Arslanoglu. (2015) J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 61 Suppl 1: S4-5.
  3. Agostoni et al. (2010) J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 50(1): 85-91.
  4. Koletzko-Uauy-Pointdexter (Eds.). Nutritional care of preterm infants: Scientific basis and practical guidelines. Karger, Basel, Switzerland.