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Bird Flu In US Dairy Cows. Raw Milk Drinkers Don’t Back Down

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JONEL ALECCIA

(CTN News) – Despite years of warnings about raw milk’s health risks and a dairy cow avian flu outbreak, sales are soaring.

NielsenIQ estimates a 21% to 65% spike in weekly raw cow’s milk sales since March 25, when the avian flu virus was first found in U.S. cattle. This contradicts the FDA and CDC, which consider milk a “riskiest” food.

“If you consume raw milk, there is a possibility that you will get very sick, as it is contaminated with harmful germs. On Monday, federal officials reported 42 herds in nine states with type A H5N1-infected cows.

The virus is abundant in raw milk from affected cows. The FDA says grocery store milk samples with viral remnants are safe to ingest because pasteurization kills the virus.

Live viral transmission from warmed milk is unknown. CDC advised milk drinkers last Monday that avian flu virus might infect nose, mouth, and throat receptors or inhale into the lungs. More persons exposed to the virus may accelerate its spread.

State raw milk laws vary, with some allowing store sales and others solely at farms. Some states allow cowshares, where people pay for milk from designated animals, while others only allow farm owners, staff, or casual visitors.

NielsenIQ counts supermarkets and other retailers. They show milk sales are a small part of dairy. NielsenIQ sold 4,100 raw cow’s milk and 43,000 raw milk cheese the week of May 5. That compared to 66.5 million pasteurized cow’s milk and 62 million cheese units.

Social media users like raw milk testimonials.

Unpasteurized food can’t be kept in stock, says Fresno’s Raw Farm USA owner Mark McAfee. Raw milk is in high demand, he said, noting that neither California nor his cows had avian flu. The FDA’s regulations are reversed by our customers.

According to Rutgers University food science professor Donald Schaffner, the surge is “absolutely stunning.”

He said, “Food safety experts like me are just simply left shaking their heads.” CDC: Over 200 milk-related disease outbreaks hospitalized over 225 persons from 1998 to 2018.

Raw milk causes more campylobacter, listeria, salmonella, and E. coli illnesses and hospitalizations than pasteurized milk, according to research. According to Center for Dairy Research safety and quality coordinator Alex O’Brien, 25% of U.S. foodborne infections were dairy-related before 1924. He calculated dairy causes 1% of such diseases.

It is similar to playing Russian roulette to consume milk, according to O’Brien. According to him, consuming more alcohol increases the risk of illness. In a 2022 FDA poll, 4.4% of U.S. adults—nearly 11 million people—drink raw milk at least once a year and 1% regularly.

Because it’s “healthy” and additive-free, Fresno’s Bonni Gilley, 75, has raised generations on raw milk and unpasteurized cream and butter.

Despite rumors of avian flu in dairy cattle, Gilley drinks raw milk.

“If anything, it is accelerating my thoughts about raw milk,” she said, partly because she distrusts government officials. Boston University health disinformation researcher Matthew Motta said such notions are part of government mistrust and expert rejection.

“It’s not that people are stupid or ignorant or don’t know science,” he said. They reject it for partisan, religious, cultural, and political reasons. CDC and FDA officials ignored milk’s rise.

Motta suggested the agencies promote pasteurized milk’s health benefits on social media. He advised communicators to study raw milk consumption and meet people there.

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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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