US detects avian flu in milk, says dairy supplies are safe

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 5:16 PM

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Samples of milk collected from sick cattle in Kansas and Texas tested positive for avian flu, but the nation’s milk supply is safe, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Monday.

The detections in milk and a dairy cow show the wide reach of the virus, known as bird flu, which has been found in poultry flocks and mammals around the world.

The USDA, along with the FDA and CDC, are investigating dairy cows in Kansas, Texas and New Mexico with symptoms including decreased milk production and low appetite, the USDA said.

So far, “unpasteurized, clinical samples of milk” collected from two dairy farms in Kansas and one in Texas tested positive for highly pathogenic avian flu, the government said. A cattle swab test from another dairy in Texas also was positive.

Based on findings from Texas, wild birds, which spread the virus globally, appear to have introduced the virus to cattle, the USDA said. Testing indicates the risk of human infection is low, according to the agency.

The government said milk from sick cows is being diverted or destroyed so it does not enter the food supply. Pasteurization is required for milk entering interstate commerce, a process that kills bacteria and viruses such as flu, the USDA said.

“At this stage, there is no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply or that this circumstance poses a risk to consumer health,” the agency said. It added there should be no impact on prices for milk or other dairy products.

U.S. dairy industry groups urged importers not to ban or restrict shipments of U.S. dairy products because of the detections.

Importers have limited purchases of U.S. poultry since the nation’s worst-ever outbreak of the disease began in chicken and turkey flocks in 2022.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; editing by Costas Pitas)