Remnants of bird flu virus found in pasteurized milk, FDA says

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that samples of pasteurized milk tested positive for remnants of the avian flu virus that has infected dairy cows.

The agency stressed that the material is inactivated and that the results “do not represent an actual virus that could pose a risk to consumers.” Officials added that they were continuing to study the matter.

“So far, we have not seen anything that would change our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” the FDA said in a statement.

The announcement comes nearly a month after a bird flu virus, which has sickened millions of wild and commercial birds in recent years, was detected in dairy cows in at least eight states. The Ministry of Agriculture says 33 herds have been affected so far.

FDA officials did not say how many samples they tested or where they were obtained. The agency evaluated the milk during processing and in grocery stores, officials said. Additional test results are expected in “the coming days or weeks.”

The PCR laboratory test used by the FDA would have detected viral genetic material even after the live virus had been killed by pasteurization or heat treatment, said Lee-Ann Jaykus, a distinguished food microbiologist and virologist at California State University. North Carolina.

“There is no evidence to date that this is an infectious virus and the FDA is following up on that,” Jaykus said.

FDA and USDA officials previously said milk from affected cattle did not enter the commercial supply. Milk from sick animals is supposed to be diverted and destroyed. Federal regulations require that milk entering interstate commerce be pasteurized.

Since the detection of the avian influenza virus known as type A H5N1 in dairy cattle is new and the situation is evolving, no studies on the effects of pasteurization on the virus have been carried out, they said. FDA officials. But previous research shows that pasteurization is “highly likely” to inactivate heat-sensitive viruses like H5N1, the agency added.

Matt Herrick, a spokesman for the International Dairy Association, said time and temperature regulations for pasteurization ensure the safety of the commercial milk supply in the United States. The remnants of the virus “have no impact on human health,” he wrote in an email.

Scientists confirmed the presence of the H5N1 virus in dairy cows in March after weeks of reports that cows in Texas were suffering from a mysterious illness. The cows were lethargic and saw their milk production drop significantly. Although the H5N1 virus is deadly to commercial poultry, most infected cattle appear to recover within two weeks, experts say.

To date, two people in the United States have been infected with bird flu. A Texas dairy worker who had close contact with an infected cow recently developed a mild eye infection and recovered. In 2022, an inmate in a work program caught it while killing infected birds at a Colorado poultry farm. His only symptom was fatigue and he recovered.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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