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Bird Flu Detected in the Milk Supply

April 25, 2024
Although ‘the presence of the virus has been detected in milk,’ pasteurization renders it harmless; but FDA and USDA warn against unpasteurized dairy products.

The FDA and USDA said “the presence” of the avian influenza virus has been detected in milk, but both agencies said the U.S. milk supply remains safe because of pasteurization.

Raw milk, on the other hand, poses a threat, the extent of which the agencies have not determined. The agencies “recommend that industry does not manufacture or sell raw milk or raw milk products, including raw milk cheese, made with milk from cows showing symptoms of illness, including those infected with avian influenza viruses or exposed to those infected with avian influenza viruses.”

USDA is monitoring animals to detect any spread of the virus to beef cattle, but “to date, we have received no reports of symptoms in beef herds.”

The presence of inactivated virus has been one of the “other shoes” waiting to drop since avian influenza was detected in dairy cows in March. Bird flu has caused the deaths or destruction of millions of poultry birds this year. But, according to dairy farmers and veterinarians reporting to the agencies on affected herds, most infected cows recover within two to three weeks.

“Based on the information currently available, our commercial milk supply is safe because of these two reasons: 1) the pasteurization process and 2) the diversion or destruction of milk from sick cows,” the FDA said.

In indirectly acknowledging that the virus has been detected in milk, FDA noted, “Based on available information, pasteurization is likely to inactivate the virus, however the process is not expected to remove the presence of viral particles. Therefore, some of the samples collected have indicated the presence of HPAI,” highly pathogenic avian influenza.

“To date, we have seen nothing that would change our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” FDA concluded. “Results from multiple studies will be made available in the next few days to weeks.”

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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