Unfortunately the judge did not rule in favour of IPEN’s case and the HEPN (Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notices) were enforced.
This means that Lynnea Shrief in Dacorum Borough council is prohibited from making raw placenta smoothies and raw and TCM placenta capsules until the DBC are satisfied that I have improved chill chain procedures. All other IPEN placenta specialists continue to offer safe and professional placenta encapsulation services around the world.
Magistrate judge Annabel Pilling’s reasoning for her verdict in her own words, verdict received Thursday 15 May 2014:
“IPEN submits that is sufficient, like many end producers of food products, to take the only reasonable steps available to it to ensure the safety of the ingredients it uses. In this case, all it can do is ask the producer of the ingredient (the placenta) to confirm the cold chain has been maintained. As the producer of the placenta is the end consumer, is committed to the process of making a food product using that ingredient and would not put the safety of that ingredient at risk, IPEN is entitled to rely upon that confirmation.
I disagree with this submission and I found Mrs Shreif’s evidence to be particularly compelling to the contrary. The end consumer is likely to be so committed to her desire to consume her placenta that she would “push” the boundaries set by IPEN and therefore is likely to misrepresent the facts in respect of the handling, storage time and storage temperature of the placenta. This misrepresentation could be intentional or due to an honest mistake because the time of birth is busy, filled with many competing priorities at different stages, and looking after the placenta may not be at the forefront of the mother’s mind.
On the facts, there can be no dispute that IPEN has no system or procedures in place to ensure the maintenance of the cold chain or to check for possible contamination when it takes possession of the placenta. While handling, storage and production by the mother would be domestic in nature, IPEN is a food business operator and cannot rely on the intimate nature of its business as providing an exemption from the requirements of regulatory supervision.”
“Smokehouse or butchers are not forced by environmental health officers or European food legislation to temperature check the product”
I would like to clarify that I fully believe IPEN did have a system in place to ensure the maintenance of the chill chain was verified because IPEN has always trusted it’s clients to handle their placentas with care and follow the detailed care instruction provided to them upon booking. After all, IPEN clients are the consumer of their own placenta and it is in their best interests to handle their placenta properly. I disagree that our clients would “misrepresent the facts in respect to handling, storage time and temperature because they are so committed to their desire”. Our clients are intelligent, informed and very health conscious women who would never take the risk of putting themselves in danger, especially after birth.
Like fisherman and gamesmen who take their catch to their local smokehouse or butcher, the smokehouse or butcher are not forced by environmental health officers or European food legislation to temperature check the product, nor are they forced to prepare any documentation of the handover process or verify the chill chain hasn’t been broken. They verbally ask a few questions, smoke/prepare the catch and return it to the fisherman/gamesmen for consumption. (Verified by a smokehouse based in Cornwall) There is a trust relationship between the two parties which is essential for the process to work. The supplier is the end consumer and it’s in their best interests to keep their catch chilled for their own health benefit; exactly like IPEN’s placenta services. However, judge Annabel Pilling feels more rigorous measures must be put into place to ensure the chill chain is not broken because she feels new mothers cannot be trusted to care for their own placentas after birth. I feel this judgement is a breach of human rights for mothers in Dacorum and shows an incredible lack of trust in the competence of birthing women, their midwives and their birth companions who all have a vested interest in ensuring the placenta is chilled after birth.
“No known reports of food poisoning in the history of placenta consumption”
These HEPN’s were not brought on by any report or complaint of food poisoning or illness nor were they brought on by any concern with the handling or processing of placentas using the IPEN method. No reports of illness proves that mothers are capable of caring for their placentas as advised after birth. The HEPN’s were brought on by the DBC because they had a cause for concern with regards to contamination from the mother’s vagina, namely Staphylococcus aureus enterotoxin which may grow on a placenta if the placenta is not chilled below 8 °C within 6hrs after birth. Further information about the DBC’s fear of Staphyloccocus aureus bacteria. The DBC fear that the smoothies and capsules produced by Lynnea Shrief would cause an imminent risk to health based on their contamination and chill chain concerns while the placenta is in the mothers possession. While I disagree with the DBC and the judgement, it is my duty as the Founder and Director of IPEN to comply with the DBC and help and support all members of IPEN to comply with their local authorities. For this reason I have made changes to our procedures and I have implemented the new food safety management system including HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) for all IPEN specialists to ensure we can verify the chill chain by taking temperature readings.
I have worked tirelessly over the last 5 months and I have hired a food safety expert to implement a new Food Safety Management System which I believe will satisfy Dacorum and other local authority environmental health inspectors. I will make every effort to ensure these HEPN’s are lifted and women in Dacorum can once again benefit from safe placenta services. I feel confident my improvements to our documentation and services will be accepted.
I sincerely hope that IPEN clients, both NHS and private midwives and the public will not see this issue as an act of negligence on IPEN’s behalf. There have been several local newspaper reports that are not correct and very misleading to the public, some even stating that ‘Placenta smoothies are banned’, which is untrue. Any mother in Dacorum is very much free to make her own placenta remedies whenever she pleases and is very much encouraged to contact IPEN for telephone support.
“IPEN received a 4* food hygiene rating from the DBC in April 2013”
IPEN has always attempted to comply with all European food regulations and has maintained constant communication with health authorities since 2009 when I first offered services to the public. Until September of 2013, IPEN’s system and procedures were accepted by the DBC and IPEN received a 4* food hygiene rating from the DBC in April 2013. It wasn’t until September 2013 that a DBC health officer raised concerns about the consumption of ‘raw meat’ in placenta smoothies; they later found there may be a risk to human health based on their opinion of contaminants they suspected may be found on a vaginally birthed placenta and chose to take immediate action without warning.
While I respect the roles of environmental health officers, in my opinion their actions were abrupt and without notice. Communication would have been well received as to exactly what was lacking from IPEN’s documentation and I believe this issue could have been more carefully handled by the DBC without court action. I do believe the awarding of a 4* food hygiene rating and 2.5 years of satisfaction from the DBC prior to these notices is proof that I had been offering placenta services that met regulations.
“While I believe vaginal flora is essential for the health of the newborn and mother, the DBC view vaginal flora as a contaminant and risk to human health.”
There is a lack of understanding within the general public and the health sector regarding the importance of lactobacillus bacteria and other essential bacterias in the vagina and how they regulate and maintain levels of potentially harmful bacteria (i.e. Staphylococcus aureus). This cocktail of essential bacteria prevent infection in the vagina in women’s daily lives. This is a key point that was raised by Dr Slim Dinsdale in court and has been sadly overlooked in the judgement. While I believe vaginal flora is essential for the health of the newborn and mother, the DBC view vaginal flora as a contaminant and risk to human health. It is a point of truth that if present on the placenta, Staphylococcus bacteria would need to compete with lactobacillus bacteria delaying its growth times significantly. I do believe the very fact that IPEN has never had any complaints or reports of food poisoning by our 3,000+ clients (and as far as we are aware there have never been any reports of food poisoning anywhere in the world with regards to placenta consumption) is proof in itself that consuming ones own placenta is safe. Vaginal flora provides a great deal of protection from potentially harmful bacteria for the mother, baby and the placenta after birth. Vaginal flora are the first building blocks for a newborn’s immune system. The microbiome is incredibly complex and completely essential to the health and wellbeing of the baby throughout it’s life and only delivered to an infant by passing through the vaginal canal thus absorbing the vaginal flora. This video explains more about the microbiome and it’s role in protecting our immune system. Mibrobirth While further research into this field and it’s connection with placenta consumption is necessary, this compelling science shouldn’t be ignored.
I confirm that IPEN has taken appropriate action to improve our documentation and chill chain procedures to better support our client’s to care for their own placentas. I hope to announce the lifting of these notices by the DBC very soon.
To those of you who have been in touch to offer your support, your well wishes and your testimonials, thank you for your ongoing commitment to this cause.
IPEN Director and Founder