FDA: Early Results of More Bird Flu Tests Indicate Milk Supply Is Safe

May 2, 2024

Findings from the U.S. government partners, as well as academic researchers, do not change our assessment of the safety of the milk supply.

Acting director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Donald Prater, regarding Wednesday’s announcement from the FDA thatpreliminary testing did not detect any live, infectious [bird flu] virus in retail dairy product samples.

Why It Matters: Last week, FDA testing revealed 1 in 5 samples of grocery store milk had fragments of bird flu virus, however, it was unclear whether the fragments were “live” or “dead” virus. On Wednesday, the agency said preliminary results of additional testing on retail dairy samples (incl. milk and sour cream) “show that pasteurization is effective in inactivating” the bird flu virus, adding, “We are also committed to continued surveillance of milk production, processing and pasteurization to help ensure the safety of the milk supply.”

According to The Washington Post, neither bird flu infections nor symptoms have been reported in beef cattle, as of Tuesday; “The USDA has expressed confidence that the meat supply is safe but is seeking to verify this through additional studies that include sampling ground beef at retail stores in the states where dairy cattle have tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu.” Context: We have never seen the bird flu in cattle until recently and questions remain about how exactly herds are being impacted and spreading the virus. 

The bird flu, also known as avian flu, is a highly contagious virus with high mortality rates in poultry. The virus does not typically infect people, but “sporadic human infections have occurred,” explains the FDA. Recently, a person in Texas was diagnosed with bird flu, making them only the second case identified in the U.S.; the previous case was identified in 2022.

Read More: FDA says new bird flu test results show milk supply is safe (The Washington Post)

Updates on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Pasteurized Dairy Foods Free of Live Bird Flu, Federal Tests Confirm (The New York Times)

by Emily Hooker, based in Texas