FDA Releases Updates on Avian Flu Outbreak

April 25, 2024
The agency is performing tests on milk to continue to ensure its safety, but the milk supply in the U.S. is still safe.

The FDA has released further updates regarding the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) impacting dairy cows in multiple states.

The FDA and USDA continue to indicate that the U.S.’s commercial milk supply is safe. They emphasize that the pasteurization process, which “kills harmful bacteria and viruses by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time,” continues to keep milk safe. 99% of the commercial milk supply produced on dairy farms in the U.S. “comes from farms that participate in the Grade ‘A’ milk program and follow the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.” The FDA and CDC are collaborating closely to ensure “the continued effectiveness of the federal-state milk safety system.”

Some of the samples of raw milk collected have “indicated the presence of HPAI,” but “pasteurization is likely to inactivate the virus.” The FDA lists studies to that effect which demonstrate that pasteurization serves as an effective bulwark against heat-sensitive viruses, like H5N1, or HPAI.

U.S. government partners have been working to confirm pasteurization’s effectiveness. For instance, “laboratory benchtop tests” that help “understand how, and at what levels, heat treatment (pasteurization) inactivates” the avian flu virus. Milk will also be tested in ways “representative of real-world scenarios in which milk is typically pooled in large amounts from numerous healthy cows from numerous farms before pasteurizing and processing.” Analysis of milk on store shelves across the country will also follow.

Earlier this month, HPN reported on a human case of bird flu reported in Texas, only the second such case to ever be recorded in the country. CDC maintains that “risk to the general public remains low.”