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Government Reassures Canadians Regarding Milk Safety Amid Avian Influenza Worries

Concerns over the safety of milk and milk products in Canada have arisen following reports of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) affecting dairy cattle in the United States. In response, today, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), alongside the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Health Canada, issued a statement affirming the safety of commercially available milk and milk products in the country.

Pasteurization, a standard process for milk from dairy cows, effectively eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses, including those associated with HPAI. Recent studies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have confirmed pasteurization’s ability to deactivate the virus, even if fragments are present.

While HPAI is a notifiable disease, the government has introduced additional measures to prevent its spread and uphold food safety standards. These measures include mandating negative test results for lactating dairy cattle imported from the United States, enhancing retail-level milk testing, and facilitating voluntary cow testing to support industry biosecurity efforts.

The CFIA underscores its commitment to promptly address any potential risks to food safety or animal health to protect the country’s food supply and livestock. Additionally, the government is actively collaborating with provinces, territories, and U.S. counterparts to monitor, prepare for, and respond to the evolving situation regarding HPAI.

Despite the ongoing avian influenza outbreak since December 2021, there is no evidence to suggest that properly cooked poultry or eggs pose a risk of transmitting the virus to humans. Consumption of fully cooked poultry and eggs remains safe.

In response to the detection of HPAI in dairy cattle in the United States, the CFIA has implemented enhanced import requirements for dairy cattle from the U.S. as of April 29, 2024. The country already maintains stringent import conditions to prevent the introduction of animal diseases.

The government’s preparedness measures for HPAI encompass monitoring, risk assessment, laboratory capacity, guidance updates, communication strategies, scientific coordination, and readiness for medical countermeasures. As the situation evolves, the government remains steadfast in ensuring the safety of its citizens, food supply, and livestock, and is poised to take necessary actions to address emerging threats.

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