Illegal trade of placenta unearthed in China

The incident came to light during an undercover operation at the Red Cross Hospital in Guangzhou city of Guangdong province, according to Shanghai Daily. Health authorities have launched a probe.

Placentas were banned from trade following a health ministry order in 2005 due to health concerns. They supply oxygen and nutrients to the foetus during pregnancy and allow fetal waste to be disposed of via the mother's kidneys.

The placenta can be infected during labour or carry viruses such as hepatitis B from the mother, say doctors.

The undercover operation was launched by a reporter of the New Express Daily after a whistleblower revealed that the nurses at the hospital's obstetrics and gynaecology department were carrying out the illegal trade.

The nurses collected the placentas after women gave birth and kept in a fridge in an office. The whistleblower revealed that his wife, who had given birth at the hospital last year, had her placenta taken away without receiving any notification.

After receiving 20 yuan from the reporter, the chief nurse took out one in a plastic bag and told the scribe that it should be stewed with lean meat and Chinese dates for about an hour. The accused would face punishment if proved guilty, officials said.

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