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Sunday, July 21, 2024

A chook flu outbreak amongst dairy cows sparks new warnings about unpasteurized milk : NPR

An outbreak of avian flu in dairy cow herds has resurfaced long-simmering tensions between the federal authorities and uncooked milk advocates, who downplay considerations that well being officers have raised.


The chook flu outbreak continues to unfold amongst cows. The virus has now been present in virtually 50 dairy herds throughout 9 states. Well being officers say milk that’s pasteurized to kill germs is protected to drink, however the Meals and Drug Administration has renewed warnings in opposition to uncooked milk.


DONALD PRATER: We proceed to strongly advise in opposition to the consumption of uncooked milk and advocate that trade doesn’t manufacture or promote uncooked milk or uncooked milk merchandise.

CHANG: Now, unpasteurized – or uncooked – milk remains to be being offered in lots of states. And advocates for uncooked milk say the federal authorities has at all times opposed its consumption, so why ought to they hear now? Properly, right here to speak extra about this complete state of affairs are NPR’s Pien Huang and Chiara Eisner. Hey to each of you.



CHANG: Hey. So Chiara, I need to begin with you ‘trigger you went to Texas final week. And also you have been right here on this mission to seek out uncooked milk and check it for this virus. What did you discover?

EISNER: I discovered it was fairly straightforward to buy in Texas. It is authorized there, and all I needed to do was drive as much as these farms and buy the milk instantly from them. In some circumstances, there was a retailer attendant who I paid the cash to. In different circumstances, there wasn’t even anyone there. I simply opened the door to the fridge, grabbed the milk, left money in a drop field and got here out. In a type of farms in San Antonio, I met one other lady who was shopping for milk. Her identify was Cheryl Masraum. And she or he mentioned she’s been ingesting uncooked milk on and off for the previous 15 to twenty years.

CHERYL MASRAUM: As a result of I feel that uncooked milk is usually a a lot better high quality. Proper now, we’re simply type of watching the state of affairs and, you already know – (laughter).

EISNER: That was in Texas, which was floor zero for this outbreak of chook flu in cows. So far as scientists can inform, that is the place chook flu jumped to cows final December and kicked off this complete outbreak.

CHANG: Wait, so can individuals get chook flu from ingesting uncooked milk, Pien? Like, what do we all know in regards to the dangers?

HUANG: Properly, it is all theoretical, and the reply is possibly. However truthfully, well being officers simply do not know. So Don Prater from the FDA, we heard from him within the intro. He is very clear that the company does not advocate ingesting uncooked milk, however he additionally says that there are loads of open questions.


PRATER: There’s not an incredible quantity of research exhibiting the infectivity associated to this virus and uncooked milk merchandise.

HUANG: The one one that’s for certain gotten chook flu to date was a dairy employee in Texas, and he was coping with sick cows. He in all probability bought uncovered to sprays of contaminated milk and manure. So far as well being authorities can inform, nobody has gotten chook flu from ingesting uncooked milk but. So what they’re leaning on of their advice is the truth that individuals have gotten sick from different issues in uncooked milk, like salmonella and E. coli, and that is why they do not assume individuals ought to drink it.

CHANG: And are individuals who drink uncooked milk truly taking this recommendation?

HUANG: It does not seem to be it, Ailsa.


HUANG: We reached out to some uncooked milk teams, and so they say that their clients have been asking loads of questions, however demand appears to be holding regular.

CHANG: How in style is uncooked milk anyway? Like, I do not assume I’ve ever tasted it.

HUANG: Yeah, nicely, there’s not truly loads of uncooked milk drinkers, lower than 2% of the grownup inhabitants within the U.S., in line with an FDA examine from a few years in the past. However the ones who do drink it are very captivated with it and so they normally fall into two camps. So there’s the unique uncooked milk supporters who’ve been round for many years. They’ve lengthy needed entry to native wholesome meals. And extra lately, the uncooked milk motion has picked up people who need much less authorities regulation, meals freedom.

So individuals who’ve watched this trade for a very long time say that this meals freedom was boosted by COVID when mistrust of the federal government and authorities scientists actually grew. I spoke with Mark McAfee, a uncooked milk dairy farmer in California. He is based the Uncooked Milk Institute, which is an advocacy group. And he says that his clients simply do not belief the FDA.

MARK MCAFEE: The FDA hates uncooked milk? Superb. The FDA will take any excuse to blast us any approach they will. The people who comply with us and work with us, if the FDA says it is dangerous, they’re going to run for it. They need it so badly.

HUANG: McAfee says that he examined his cows for H5N1 when he first heard in regards to the outbreak, and so they did not have it. This was a few month and a half or two months in the past. However that is only one cut-off date and only one farm.

CHANG: Properly, what about testing? I imply, it seems like there’s all this worry. And persons are saying, no, that is simply hypothesis. However it looks as if figuring out whether or not there may be truly the virus contained in the uncooked milk provide would assist clear this up. So Chiara, what can we find out about testing?

EISNER: You are proper, Ailsa, it might actually assist to know if and the way a lot virus is on the market within the uncooked milk provide being offered now to individuals. However testing does not appear to be occurring commonly, and that knowledge is basically exhausting to return by. That is why we tried to seek out our personal. However after I introduced uncooked milk that I purchased from these 4 Texas farms to one of many few labs approved by the USDA to check milk for chook flu, the lab insisted on calling every of the 4 farms first for permission, although the USDA has confirmed the company does not require permission from farms to carry out the check.

Not one of the farms gave the lab permission to run the exams. They instructed the lab they have been conscious of what a non-negative consequence would do for his or her enterprise. So the lab refused to check our samples. Meaning we weren’t capable of learn the way a lot virus was within the uncooked milk being offered now in Texas, and doubtless it is very troublesome for different members of the general public to try this, too.

CHANG: OK, so we do not know the way a lot of this virus is current within the present uncooked milk provide. So I suppose my query now’s, how ought to we be evaluating the dangers right here, Pien?

HUANG: Yeah, Ailsa, I imply, such as you mentioned, we’re undecided if there’s dwell chook flu virus within the uncooked milk provide, however we additionally do not know that there is not, until we check for it or…

CHANG: Proper.

HUANG: …Except we inactivate it by pasteurizing it. We additionally do not know if ingesting milk with the virus is a straightforward approach for individuals to get contaminated. And there are different worries.

CHANG: Like what, Chiara?

EISNER: So the fear is that if influenza viruses from two totally different species, like a human and a chook species, infect one particular person on the identical time, a brand new type of virus may very well be created that will be extra contagious in individuals. That might result in a pandemic. The extra animals the flu spreads to and the extra individuals it spreads to, the larger the possibilities that that might occur. That is why although the official evaluation is that the chance to the general public is low, federal well being officers are urging individuals to be cautious and never drink uncooked milk.

CHANG: That’s NPR’s Chiara Eisner and Pien Huang. Thanks to each of you.

HUANG: Thanks, Ailsa.

EISNER: Thanks, Ailsa.


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