There’s hen flu in US dairy cows. Uncooked milk drinkers aren’t deterred.

There’s hen flu in US dairy cows. Uncooked milk drinkers aren’t deterred.


As of Monday, at the very least 42 herds in 9 states are recognized to have cows contaminated with the virus generally known as kind A H5N1, federal officers stated.

Bottles of raw milk are displayed for sale at a store in Temecula, Calif.
Bottles of uncooked milk are displayed on the market at a retailer in Temecula, Calif., on Wednesday, Could 8, 2024. AP Photograph/JoNel Aleccia

By JONEL ALECCIA, Related Press

Gross sales of uncooked milk seem like on the rise, regardless of years of warnings in regards to the well being dangers of ingesting the unpasteurized merchandise — and an outbreak of hen flu in dairy cows.

Since March 25, when the hen flu virus was confirmed in U.S. cattle for the primary time, weekly gross sales of uncooked cow’s milk have ticked up 21% to as a lot as 65% in contrast with the identical durations a 12 months in the past, in keeping with the market analysis agency NielsenIQ.

That runs counter to recommendation from the Meals and Drug Administration and the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, which calls uncooked milk one of many “riskiest” foods folks can eat.

“Uncooked milk will be contaminated with dangerous germs that may make you very sick,” the CDC says on its web site.

As of Monday, at least 42 herds in 9 states are recognized to have cows contaminated with the virus generally known as kind A H5N1, federal officers stated.

The virus has been present in excessive ranges within the uncooked milk of contaminated cows. Viral remnants have been found in samples of milk bought in grocery shops, however the FDA stated these merchandise are protected to eat as a result of pasteurization has been confirmed to kill the virus.

It’s not but recognized whether or not dwell virus will be transmitted to individuals who eat milk that hasn’t been heat-treated.

However CDC officers warned last week that individuals who drink uncooked milk may theoretically develop into contaminated if the hen flu virus is available in contact with receptors within the nostril, mouth and throat or by inhaling virus into the lungs. There’s additionally concern that if extra persons are uncovered to the virus, it may mutate to unfold extra simply in folks.

States have widely varying regulations concerning uncooked milk, with some permitting retail gross sales in shops and others permitting sale solely at farms. Some states enable so-called cowshares, the place folks pay for milk from designated animals, and a few enable consumption solely by farm house owners, staff or “non-paying friends.”

The NielsenIQ figures embrace grocery shops and different shops. They present that uncooked milk merchandise account for a small fraction of general dairy gross sales. About 4,100 items of uncooked cow’s milk and about 43,000 items of uncooked milk cheese had been bought the week of Could 5, as an illustration, in keeping with NielsenIQ. That compares with about 66.5 million items of pasteurized cow’s milk and about 62 million items of pasteurized cheese.

Nonetheless, testimonies to uncooked milk are trending on social media websites. And Mark McAfee, proprietor of Uncooked Farm USA in Fresno, California, says he can’t preserve his unpasteurized merchandise in inventory.

“Individuals are in search of uncooked milk like loopy,” he stated, noting that no hen flu has been detected in his herds or in California. “Something that the FDA tells our prospects to do, they do the alternative.”

The surge surprises Donald Schaffner, a Rutgers College meals science professor who referred to as the development “completely beautiful.”

“Meals security specialists like me are simply merely left shaking their heads,” he stated.

From 1998 to 2018, the CDC documented more than 200 illness outbreaks traced to uncooked milk, which sickened greater than 2,600 folks and hospitalized greater than 225.

Uncooked milk is way extra doubtless than pasteurized milk to trigger diseases and hospitalizations linked to harmful micro organism corresponding to campylobacter, listeria, salmonella and E. coli, research shows.

Earlier than milk requirements had been adopted in 1924, about 25% of foodborne diseases within the U.S. had been associated to dairy consumption, stated Alex O’Brien, security and high quality coordinator for the Heart for Dairy Analysis. Now, dairy merchandise account for about 1% of such diseases, he stated.

“I liken ingesting uncooked milk to taking part in Russian roulette,” O’Brien stated. The extra instances folks eat it, the better the possibility they’ll get sick, he added.

Regardless of the dangers, about 4.4% of U.S. adults — practically 11 million folks — report that they drink uncooked milk at the very least as soon as every year, and about 1% say they eat it every week, in keeping with a 2022 FDA research.

Bonni Gilley, 75, of Fresno, stated she has raised generations of her household on uncooked milk and unpasteurized cream and butter as a result of she believes “it’s so wholesome” and lacks components.

Reviews of hen flu in dairy cattle haven’t made her suppose twice about ingesting uncooked milk, Gilley stated.

“If something, it’s accelerating my ideas about uncooked milk,” she stated, partly as a result of she doesn’t belief authorities officers.

Such views are half of a bigger downside of presidency distrust and a rejection of experience, stated Matthew Motta, who research well being misinformation at Boston College.

“It not that persons are silly or ignorant or that they don’t know what the science is,” he stated. “They’re motivated to reject it on the premise of partisanship, their political ideology, their faith, their cultural values.”

CDC and FDA officers didn’t reply to questions in regards to the rising recognition of uncooked milk.

Motta advised that the companies ought to push again with social media posts extolling the well being results of pasteurized milk.

“Communicators must make an effort to grasp why folks eat uncooked milk and attempt to meet them the place they’re,” he stated.

The Related Press Well being and Science Division receives help from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Academic Media Group. The AP is solely liable for all content material.

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