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US FDA says pasteurized milk safe as bird flu spread in cows

April 27, 2024

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has been detected in 38 herds of cows across nine states. Despite one Texas farm worker being infected the risk to humans remains low, according to health officials.

A woman picks up a carton of milk from a fridge
The FDA says the commercial milk supply remains safeImage: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Friday that pasteurized milk is safe, despite the recent outbreak of bird flu affecting herds of cows in the country.

It comes a day after they said one in five retail milk samples tested positive for viral fragments.

Additional tests showed that the pasteurization process killed the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) causing concern.

Preliminary results indicated "pasteurization is effective in inactivating HPAI," the FDA said on Friday.

Risk to public remains low

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed dairy cows in Colorado tested positive for bird flu, following earlier infections in Texas, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Idaho, New Mexico, North Carolina and South Dakota.

Avian flu, strangers & orgasms

One person, a Texas farm worker, has been infected with bird flu and suffered mild symptoms.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization said the risk to the public remains low. It is higher for those who are near infected animals.

According to the FDA's Friday release, information continues "to show no uptick of human cases of flu and no cases of H5N1, specifically, beyond the one known case."

Congress seeking further action

Despite that the US lawmakers want a stronger response from President Joe Biden's administration.

"Containing this before it spreads among humans is critical," Republican Senator Mitt Romney said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

"Given lessons learned from COVID, this federal response is insufficient."

Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, a significant dairy state with no reported cases, has urged the USDA to "quickly deploy additional resources in states that have the opportunity to prevent the disease from entering herds."

Milk cartons in the supermarket trolley
The avian flu outbreak was first detected a month agoImage: Richard B. Levine/Sipa USA/picture alliance

In response, the White House has said that it is monitoring the avian flu situation.

An "immediate response team" had been launched to ensure the safety of the nation's food supply, monitor trends to mitigate risk and prevent the virus' spread.

Starting on Monday, the USDA will require dairy cows to test negative for bird flu before they are moved across state lines.

km/lo (AFP, Reuters)