Safety and Quality
The safety and quality of donor human milk is our top priority. Milk donors go through a rigorous process of screening and donor milk is tested and pasteurized, which ensures donor milk is safe for medical use. The milk bank meets or exceeds all applicable federal, provincial and municipal regulations including Health Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Toronto Public Health requirements.
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) has established guidelines for the proper handling of donor milk, from collection to use.
Women wishing to donate milk will go through a similar screening process to becoming a blood donor, including filling out a lifestyle and medical history questionnaire and taking a blood test to establish that they do not have any infectious diseases. Both the mother’s doctor and the baby’s doctor will need to sign forms agreeing that the mother and her baby are in good health and that her milk supply is sufficient to be able to donate.
Once a mother is accepted as a donor, her milk is shipped to the Milk Bank for processing at no cost to the donor. Donor milk is pooled from several mothers and pasteurized using the Holder Technique (62.5°C for 30 minutes) similar to the treatment of cow’s milk in the dairy industry. Pasteurized milk is quick-cooled, then frozen at -20C. This technique has been shown to kill any known potential bacterial and viral contaminants.
Tests for bacteria are conducted in the lab on each donor’s milk before pooling and pasteurization. Once pasteurized, each batch of milk is then tested again. This is done to verify that the pasteurized milk is safe and that it is ready to dispense. Pasteurized donor milk can be frozen for up to six months.
Position Statement: Pasteurized and unpasteurized donor human milk (Canadian Paediatric Society)
Donor milk maintains most nutritional components while also preserving many of the immunological and infection prevention properties of mother’s own milk throughout pasteurization and freezer storage.