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Consumer milk supply remains safe

FDA and CDC attest pasteurization inactivates H5N1 virus in Grade A milk supplies.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

April 29, 2024

2 Min Read
milk being poured into a glass
SAFE: FDA and CDC attest that the consumer milk supply remains safe due to the pasteurization process that inactivates H5N1 virus in Grade A milk supplies.PointsStudio/Getty Images

USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their state partners continue to be in contact with each other regarding the H5N1 outbreak among dairy cows. The multiple entities are monitoring the situation for not only animal health and welfare, but also for public food safety.

According to FDA, “FDA and USDA have indicated that based on the information currently available, our commercial milk supply is safe because of these two reasons: 1) the pasteurization process and 2) the diversion or destruction of milk from sick cows.”

For more than 100 years, pasteurization has been shown to kill harmful bacteria and viruses by heating milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time. Ninety-nine percent of the commercial milk supply produced on U.S. dairy farms is under the Grade A milk program, which follows the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. There is a two-pronged approach to the federal-state milk safety system: pasteurization and diversion or destruction of milk from sick cows, according to FDA.

To date, FDA and CDC surveillance systems do not show any unusual trends in flu-like illness, flu or conjunctivitis, FDA reports.

Recent media reports have announced that viral particles have been found in retail milk samples. “Based on available information, pasteurization is likely to inactivate the virus; however, the process is not expected to remove the presence of viral particles,” the FDA reports. “Therefore, some of the samples collected have indicated the presence of HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) testing.” To date, FDA reports that it has seen nothing that would change its assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe.

The National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Gregg Doud issued a statement April 24. “USDA, FDA and scientific research has established what accumulated science indicated all along: The consumer milk supply is safe. Pasteurization renders the H5N1 virus, like other viruses, inactive, an important reminder to consumers of its value as a basic safeguard for human health. We appreciate that these agencies are sharing this message, which will help alleviate any concerns consumers may have.

“That said, the presence of this virus in dairy herds, as well as dairy farmers’ own commitment to animal and human health, makes USDA’s actions on testing and interstate travel appropriate. Dairy farmers stand ready to take a proactive approach to ensuring that we better understand the spread of the virus, do what we can to limit that spread, and ensure the health of our animals and workers.”

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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