June 12, 2024


FDA urges US states to keep public from risks of raw milk in light of bird flu infecting cows




The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking US states to take more steps to protect the public from the risks of raw milk as the H5N1 bird flu virus spreads through dairy cattle in the United States.


In an open letter posted to the agency's website on June 6, the FDA urged states to warn the public more strongly about the dangers of raw milk and test herds that produce it for sale. It also recommended that states use their regulatory authorities to stop the sale of raw milk within the state or in areas where dairy herds have tested positive.


On June 6, Minnesota became the 10th US state to report infected herds. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), 82 herds in the US have tested positive for the H5N1 virus.


The FDA doesn't allow the sale of raw milk across state lines, but several states allow the sale of raw milk for human consumption within their borders, with varying requirements.


Some states allow raw milk to be sold as pet food labeled "not for human consumption," understanding that what people do with the milk in their own homes is up to them.


Raw milk can carry high levels of the H5N1 bird flu virus as the virus appears to infect cows through their udders. It is not yet known whether people can get bird flu by drinking milk contaminated with the virus. However, cats living on farms with infected cows have died after consuming unpasteurised milk, and three dairy workers exposed to raw milk have been infected.


"Given the current and potential future risks that HPAI H5N1 virus poses to our nation's public health, as well as the health of our nation's food-producing animals and wildlife, it is important to work together to minimise the additional exposure of humans and other animal species," wrote Dr. Don Prater, acting director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, who is leading the agency's H5N1 response.


The FDA is also asking states to monitor dairy cattle herds for signs of illness that would indicate infection with H5N1 bird flu virus. It also advised farms to safely discard milk from sick cows.


Any raw milk or raw milk products from exposed cattle that are fed to calves or any other animals should be heat-treated or pasteurised, the FDA said.


Furthermore, it is calling on states to implement surveillance testing for the presence of the H5N1 virus in dairy herds that might be engaged in producing raw milk and report their results to state and federal regulatory agencies.


The agency said it would soon share new research and data on bird flu virus in both raw milk and raw milk products.



Video >

Follow Us