Enlarge / Cows being milked (credit: Getty | Edwin Remsberg)

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced that genetic fragments from the highly-pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 have been detected in the pasteurized, commercial milk supply. However, the testing completed so far—using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR)—only detects the presence of viral genetic material and cannot tell whether the genetic material is from live and infectious viral particles or merely remnants of dead ones killed by the pasteurization process.

Testing is now ongoing to see if viable, infectious H5N1 can be identified in milk samples.

So far, the FDA still believes that the milk supply is safe. “To date, we have seen nothing that would change our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” the agency said in a lengthy explanation of the finding and ongoing testing.

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