Public Notices and Press Releases

Health Officials Warn Against Consuming Raw Milk During H5N1 Bird Flu Outbreak

Amid an ongoing H5N1 Avian Influenza outbreak, New Jersey's health and agriculture authorities are cautioning against the consumption of raw milk.

NEW JERSEY - The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) and the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) have issued a reminder to residents about the potential health risks associated with consuming raw milk during the current H5N1 bird flu outbreak

This advisory comes despite no reported cases of H5N1 among residents or dairy cows within the state. The concern follows reports from other states where the virus has been detected in dairy cows.

Raw milk, which comes from cows, sheep, and goats, is not pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process by which milk is heated to a high temperature for a set period, effectively killing harmful pathogens. 

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the commercial milk supply remains safe as these products undergo pasteurization before being marketed. However, raw milk and its derivatives, such as certain cheeses, ice cream, and yogurt, can harbor dangerous bacteria like Brucella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

The health risks extend to household pets as well. Feeding pets raw milk has been linked to cases of illness from bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. More alarmingly, a farm in Texas reported fatalities among cats that consumed raw milk from cows infected with the H5N1 virus.

To prevent contamination and disease, dairy farms are mandated to provide milk only from healthy animals for human consumption. Milk from any affected animals is promptly diverted from the food supply or destroyed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises the public to adhere to the following guidelines to minimize health risks:

  • Opt for pasteurized milk and dairy products.
  • Store milk, dairy products, and other perishable items at or below 40⁰F.
  • Dispose of expired food, including dairy products, promptly.

The NJDOH and NJDA are actively monitoring the situation and will continue collaborating with local, state, and federal agencies to safeguard the health of both people and animals in New Jersey.

Additional Resources can be found at:

NJDOH | Novel Influenza

NJDA | Avian Influenza

CDC | H5N1 Bird flu: Current Situation Summary

CDC | Current H5N1 Bird flu Situation in Dairy Cows

FDA | Updates on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

FDA | Questions and Answers Regarding Milk Safety During HPAI Outbreaks

CDC | Why is Raw Milk Unsafe?

CDC | Raw Milk Questions and Answers

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