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FDA Update on Bird Flu Traces in Milk: What to Know About Pasteurized and Raw Milk

Fragments of the virus that causes bird flu, H5N1, were found in one in five pasteurized milk samples across the US, the US Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday. A day later, the agency posted an update with good news, confirming that additional testing of the samples didn’t turn up active or infectious virus, which is what experts have said would be the case since pasteurization is expected to kill or inactivate bird flu virus, as it does other potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.
The FDA says the milk supply remains safe; pasteurization is a requirement for commercial milk, making up the vast majority of milk found on store shelves (though not all, depending on local laws around raw milk sales).
Still, the announcement about evidence of virus in pasteurized milk was jarring because since bird flu was first reported in US dairy cows, evidence of it had only previously been reported in unpasteurized product, which hasn’t gone through the process of heating milk to get rid of viruses and bacteria like pasteurized products have. It also suggested the virus has been spreading more widely than what’s been realized in cattle.
While the current public health threat to people remains low, some scientists and infectious disease experts have expressed concerns about US health agencies’ response to bird flu in farm animals and their lack of details on the information pertaining to milk samples. Virologist Angela Rasmussen, for example, said in an X thread Tuesday that the new milk findings suggest the disease may be spreading asymptomatically in cows and more broadly than previously thought and that an

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