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The Law of Self-Eating—Milk, Placenta, and Feces Consumption


Humans have consumed nearly every human body part. Today, the consumption of milk, placenta, and feces, in particular, is on the rise. Milk, placenta, and feces circulate directly among people given that no medical expertise is required to consume them in unprocessed form, but they are also distributed by institutionalized medical entities (e.g., biobanks, hospitals, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, or cosmetic companies). They are considered simultaneously valuable (as they are typically donated gratuitously and primarily used for nutritional, health, and research purposes) and dangerous (as they can transmit viruses, bacteria, parasites, and pollutants). This article has two main goals. First, in examining the social meanings of milk, placenta, and feces consumption, it considers whether and how the circulation of these bio-commodities shapes the limits of human bodies and communities. Second, it asks whether there is something different or specific about the way in which self-consumption (i.e., the consumption of human body materials by humans) is regulated compared to that of foods, drugs, and supplements derived from animal bodies, plants, or other non-human sources.


Published: 2021-05-04
Pages:109 to 122
Section: Articles
How to Cite
Cohen, Mathilde. (2020) 2021. “The Law of Self-Eating—Milk, Placenta, and Feces Consumption”. Law, Technology and Humans 3 (1):109-22.

Author Biography

University of Connecticut
United States United States

Mathilde Cohen is the George Williamson Crawford Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut and formerly a research fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France. She works in the fields of constitutional law, health law, comparative law, food law, and race, gender and the law. Her research centers on foundational questions related to bodies, nourishment, and reproduction in domains where legal regulation does not yet exist or has not yet crystallized into a regulatory regime and the normative questions are contested. She has analyzed the regulation of bodily substances such as milk and placenta as raising key issues of social justice. She is also writing about French eating practices, arguing that food is used to reinforce whiteness as the dominant racial identity in France. Her current project addresses the ambivalent status of lactation to feed children in North American and European political, legal, and parenting cultures, including the specific lactating parents’ unique challenges in times of pandemic.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2652-4074