Breast milk menu too titillating for diners

Hans Locher, landlord of the Storchen in Winterthur, believes breast is best when it comes to milk 20 Minuten/Aebi

A restaurant has been banned from serving up dishes containing human milk on the grounds that the "ingredient" derives from an unauthorised source.

This content was published on September 18, 2008 - 13:04

The Storchen restaurant, in Iberg on the outskirts of Winterthur, 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.

But Storchen 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 told swissinfo.

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.

Locher found inspiration 35 years ago by concocting some dishes using his wife's surplus milk following the birth of his daughter. He finally decided to go public with his culinary novelty after noticing a lot of recent mothers in the neighbourhood.

Media storm

"One evening I thought that they must have a lot of extra breast milk that I could do something with. I remembered the excellent results of my previous experiments and dug out some of my old recipes," he said.

Locher offered SFr16.25 ($14.50) for a litre of milk, calculating that he needed about five litres to put a menu together. He got "one or two" responses to his advertisement but had no time to collect any milk by the time the authorities intervened.

Locher admitted that he knew his novelty cuisine would generate publicity, but insisted that the main inspiration behind his idea was to provide tasty dishes. The Swiss media besieged the restaurant within days of the advert for human milk appearing.

"I never thought I would get this much media attention. It is scary what has happened in the past few days," he told swissinfo.

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.

Ethical doubts

"This raises ethical 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 told swissinfo.

She also raised practical doubts about the scheme that may have caused problems if it had gone ahead.

"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 specifically designed for babies and not to be of nutritional value for adults."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

Mother's milk

The Storchen is not the first establishment to toy with the idea of serving up human milk as a culinary treat for adults.

Five years ago, news circulated of a restaurant owner in the Chinese province of Hunan offering human milk dishes. Reports said the entrepreneur planned to offer a banquet of 108 different dishes, but the Chinese authorities scuppered the scheme.

A cheese making company in France claims that it produces cheeses made from human milk while an entrepreneur in Los Angeles was reported to be producing breast milk ice cream branded as Bosomberry.

The substance has also been put to other uses. A range of jewellery formed by boiling a mixture of human milk and vinegar recently went on display at the La Cuisine Gallery in France.

Scientific research in Sweden has also found evidence that breast milk may kill certain cancer cells. Some patients take milk as medication, but there is as yet no conclusive evidence that it works.

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