On the CDC Placenta Encapsulation Case Study

Posted on: July 7, 2017 | Placenta Encapsulation

A few days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published notes on an individual case study that associated an infant’s late onset Group B Strep (GBS) infection with the mother’s consumption of her encapsulated placenta.

At Boston Placenta, we take our client’s safety seriously, addressing any of their concerns with the utmost transparency about our standards and practices. For that reason, we wanted to discuss the CDC article.

What We Know

The mother tested negative for GBS during her standard prenatal screening at 37 weeks.

The infant showed signs of infection shortly after birth, tested positive, and was discharged after receiving adequate treatment.

The infant was admitted to another hospital 5 days later and tested positive for GBS once more. They received treatment a second time. Tests were conducted, including on the mother’s breastmilk, to identify a source for the bacterial exposure. None was initially found until the staff tested the mother’s placenta capsules, which tested positive for GBS.

The infant was diagnosed with “late-onset GBS disease attributable to high maternal colonization secondary to consumption of GBS-infected placental tissue.” (source)

The placenta was picked up from the hospital by the encapsulator.

The placenta was “cleaned, sliced, and dehydrated at 115°F–160°F then ground and placed into about 115–200 gelatin capsules, and stored at room temperature.” (source)

What We Don’t Know

Because the placenta was removed from the mother’s possession, there are many unknowns.

We do not know how it was handled during transport and processing, if it was stored properly, where it was processed, or if proper safety protocols and universal precautions were observed.

We cannot even say with absolute certainty that the pills this mother received were, in fact, made with her own placenta.

So, Is Placenta Encapsulation Safe?

We can only speak to our own protocols and standards when answering this question. Anytime bloodborne pathogens and biological products are being handled, there is risk. Placenta encapsulation is not the exception. It is this fact that informs the strict safety standards we practice at Boston Placenta and which are taught and enforced by our certifying body. We constantly evaluate our rigorous process in order to ensure we are addressing and reducing all potential risks.

Our clients know exactly where their placenta has been and how it has been stored, because they have been provided with a transport kit and clear guidelines for the safe transport and storage of their placenta, from the moment of birth to the moment our Postpartum Placenta Specialist arrives in their home to begin the process. There is no doubt about whether the capsules they are receiving are, in fact, made with their own placenta because it was the only one present and they brought it home themselves.

Boston Placenta only offers the traditional method of placenta encapsulation, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine practices.  Our Postpartum Placenta Specialists clean and drain the placenta before steaming it for 8-12 minutes prior to dehydrating at 160° F overnight. Based on food handling guidelines, we know that the “danger zone” for rapid bacterial growth on meat products is between 40°F and 140°F. The placenta in the CDC case study was not steamed prior to dehydration and it was potentially dehydrated at temperatures too low to kill bacteria, a common practice when preparing a placenta using the raw method of encapsulation.

In their statement, the CDC mentions that heating at 130° for at least 121 minutes is necessary to decrease infection-causing bacteria counts. We also know from preliminary research data published earlier this year in Europe that steaming followed by dehydration causes a drastic reduction of microbial counts during encapsulation and that in properly prepared placenta capsules no unsafe organisms were detected. This research also looked at potential toxins, such as heavy metals, and found levels well below acceptable toxicity thresholds after processing. As noted above, our company’s practices far exceed these current recommendations.

While no regulations exist to standardize placenta encapsulation practices, and not all placenta encapsulators have adequate training or protocols to ensure the highest possible safety standards are followed, the precautions and sanitation protocols we adhere to in all phases of the encapsulation process at Boston Placenta exceed current industry standards. Our Postpartum Placenta Specialists utilize disposable/single-use equipment and supplies whenever possible and sanitize all reusable equipment observing OSHA bloodborne pathogens and infection control guidelines and training. They have been through rigorous, hands-on training and a comprehensive certification process. Furthermore, they receive ongoing mentoring from experienced industry leaders.

You only get one chance to make sure your placenta is encapsulated properly. As you consider the important decision of who to entrust with this task, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask before hiring an encapsulator.

This recent CDC case study only reaffirms our commitment at Boston Placenta to offering the safest placenta encapsulation service in the Greater Boston Area, continuing uphold the highest safety standards and protocols to protect you and your family.

If you, your family, or your provider have any questions about the recent CDC article, our process and standards, or placenta encapsulation in general contact us today.

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