May 3, 2024


US to test beef samples as bird flu spreads to dairy cows in country




The US government said on April 29 that it is collecting samples of ground beef at retail stores in US states for testing, following the recent bird flu infection of dairy cows


The government remains confident the meat supply in the United States is safe.


Federal officials are seeking to verify the safety of milk and meat after confirming the H5N1 virus in 34 dairy cattle herds in nine states since late March, and in one person in Texas.


Both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have said the overall public health risk is low, but is higher for those with exposure to infected animals.


Scientists believe outbreaks are more widespread in cows than officially reported based on findings of H5N1 particles in about 20% of milk samples. The US Food and Drug Administration said last week that preliminary results of gold-standard PCR tests showed pasteurisation killed the bird flu virus in milk.


The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will analyse retail ground beef samples with PCR tests that indicate "whether any viral particles are present," and conduct two other safety studies, according to a statement.


Some dairy cows are processed into ground beef when they grow old.


USDA this week started requiring lactating dairy cows to test negative for bird flu before being moved across state lines as officials seek to contain the virus.


The department said that testing is not required for cows that are shipped over state lines directly to slaughter facilities from barns where they are sold. Those cattle only need documentation showing they were inspected by a veterinarian.


The USDA added that it inspects each animal before slaughter, and all cattle carcasses must pass inspection after slaughter to enter the human food supply.

It is now also collecting beef muscle samples at slaughter facilities of dairy cattle that have been condemned to determine the presence of viral particles, according to the statement.


Any positive PCR tests for retail or slaughter samples will be evaluated for live virus, the USDA said.


Last week, the USDA said it had found bird flu in a lung tissue sample from an asymptomatic dairy cow that was sent to slaughter from an infected herd. The animal did not enter the food supply, according to the department.


There are no known cases of bird flu in beef cattle so far.

- Reuters

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