FDA Report: Bird Flu Found In Milk Samples

April 26, 2024

Right now, all indication is that pasteurization is effective.

Ohio State University veterinary epidemiologist, Dr. Andrew Bowman, on a new report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the bird flu virus. The FDA found genetic fragments of the virus in about 1 in 5 pasteurized samples of milk.

Why It Matters: 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 FDA previously stated that milk from impacted cows had not entered the milk supply, according to The Associated Press. An important caveat: While genetic material of the bird flu was detected in milk we do not now if that was “live” or “dead” virus: “There is no evidence to date that this is infectious virus and the FDA is following up on that.” – Lee-Ann Jaykus, an emeritus food microbiologist and virologist at North Carolina State University via The Associated Press.

As of Thursday, bird flu has been reported in 33 cattle herds across eight states: Idaho, Michigan, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, South Dakota, North Carolina and Ohio. The FDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are investigating this outbreak.

However, the FDA and USDA indicate that “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 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: Updates on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) (FDA)

1 in 5 samples of pasteurized milk had bird flu virus fragments, FDA says (NBC News)

by Emily Hooker, based in Texas