CDC Warns of Risks Associated With Raw Milk Consumption and Bird Flu: Sales Continue to Spike

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jun 04, 2024

For decades, Americans have turned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for their health and safety information. However, a recent spike in raw milk sales shows that may not be as true as it once was.

Both the CDC and the FDA have repeatedly warned Americans against drinking raw milk and even announced that hundreds of cows have been infected with the bird flu, which is contagious through raw milk. But sales are continuing to spike.

What Is Raw Milk?

For those unaware of the growing trend, raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. In other words, it has not gone through the pasteurization process, which kills all pathogens and microbes that could cause illness in the human body.

Several gallons of raw milk in a row on a fridge shelf

Source: Reddit

People have been pasteurizing milk since the 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1924 that it became common practice. Before 1924, 25% of food borne illnesses came from dairy products, but since then, milk and cheese only cause about 1% of consumption-related health issues.

The FDA Calls Raw Milk the “Riskiest” Food People Can Consume

The Center for Dairy Research also reported that raw milk is known to contain E. coli, salmonella, listeria, campylobacter, and other dangerous bacteria that lead to illness, hospitalization, or, in the worst cases, death.

The entryway to the FDA headquarters

Source: iStock

Therefore, the FDA has long warned people against consuming unpasteurized milk. In fact, the organization has even labeled raw milk as one of the “riskiest” foods in America.

The CDC Announced Several Cases of the Bird Flu in Dairy Cows

The CDC has continuously told Americans the dangers of raw milk, but as of this year, there is an even more potentially dangerous concern than generalized bacteria.

A digital illustration of a rooster infecting a cow with the bird flu virus

Source: Shutterstock

On March 25, 2024, the CDC released a statement that explained, “A multi-state outbreak of [the] bird flu in dairy cows was reported [for the first time.]” And only a week later, on April 1, they reported one confirmed case of human infection, who contracted the disease due to “expos[ure] to dairy cows in Texas.”

51 Herds of Cows in 9 States Have Contracted the Bird Flu

The situation continued to worsen, and as of May 22, 2024, 51 herds of dairy cows across 9 states had confirmed cases of bird flu. The CDC is constantly posting updates regarding the multistate outbreak, but the same general message is in every announcement.

A black and white dairy cow in the foreground while the rest of his herd is in the background

Source: Freepik

Which is that “People should avoid unpasteurized (“raw”) milk.” One post even explicitly said, “High levels of [bird flu] virus have been found in unpasteurized milk from infected cows. CDC and FDA recommend against the consumption of raw milk or raw milk products.”

How Do People Get Infected With the Bird Flu From Cows?

The CDC also said, “The risk of human infection from drinking raw milk containing live [bird flu] virus specifically is unknown.”

A woman drinking a glass of milk in her kitchen

Source: iStock

But because they do know that the virus is located in the cow’s respiratory tract, they assume that people could be infected by breathing in the pathogens while drinking raw milk.


The Bird Flu Can Be Fatal

Therefore, as the CDC said, “Consumption of contaminated raw milk could be dangerous.” However, many people don’t realize just how unpredictable the bird flu actually is. For some, the virus only produces mild flu-like symptoms.

A digital illustration of the microscopic bacteria that cause viruses

Source: Freepik

Sadly, for others, the bird flu can result in death. In fact, the CDC reported that globally, the virus has a shocking “50% fatality rate.”


Raw Milk Has Become Increasingly Popular Over the Years

Even though the CDC and the FDA have warned against raw milk for years, and they are extremely concerned and vocal about the possibility of a bird flu pandemic, people are continuing to drink raw milk.

A photograph of the milk section at a grocery store

Source: Depositphotos

According to data collected by NielsenIQ, raw milk sales have increased between 21% and 65% since this time last year. Of course, it’s challenging to say for sure, as most raw milk isn’t purchased at a grocery store but from independent merchants.


Raw Milk Distributors Say They’re Selling More Than Ever

The majority of states have specific regulations regarding the sale of raw milk, but there are always options. In some states, raw milk is available on grocery shelves, whereas in others, one has to go directly to the farm or even purchase “shares” in a dairy cow.

A promotional poster with several photographs of raw milk and other unpasteurized products from Raw Farm USA in Fresno, California

Source: @RawFarmUSA/Facebook

Mark McAfee, the owner of Raw Farm USA in Fresno, California, reported, “People are seeking raw milk like crazy,” and noted that he is constantly selling out of his products.


People Want Unprocessed Products

The truth is that many Americans have started to question what they are consuming. The vast majority of products in an American grocery store are highly processed and filled with chemical additives.

A woman wearing an orange sweater and drinking a glass of milk

Source: Freepik

Therefore, they are looking for options that are pure whole foods that haven’t been sent to a factory before getting to their refrigerators. Many argue that the risks contained in a glass of unpasteurized milk are worth those found in its pasteurized counterpart.


Americans Have Lost Faith in the Nation’s Health Organizations

Since documentaries, blogs, holistic nutritionists, and even major news outlets have begun speaking out against the US food industry and the massive amount of chemicals that the FDA and CDC have approved, millions of Americans have lost faith in national health organizations.

The entrance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters

Source: iStock


Drinking Raw Milk Is Like Gambling With Your Health

However, food and health experts all around the world can’t understand why Americans don’t understand the risks involved in drinking unpasteurized milk.

A digital illustration of a gambling game at a casino

Source: Freepik

Alex O’Brien, safety and quality coordinator for the Center for Dairy Research, said, “I liken drinking raw milk to playing Russian roulette.” Essentially, the more times people consume raw milk, the more likely they are to get sick with the bird flu or about a dozen other bacterial infections.