USDA: No H5N1 Avian Flu Detected in US Ground Beef Supply

H5N1 Avian Flu Detected in US Ground Beef Supply
H5N1 Avian Flu Detected in US Ground Beef Supply. Credit | REUTERS

United States: Following an assessment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared on Wednesday that there has been no evidence of H5N1 avian flu found in the country’s supply of ground beef thus far.

USDA Confirms Ground Beef Free of H5N1 Avian Flu

The government released a statement stating that 30 ground beef samples from retail locations in “states with dairy cattle herds that had tested positive for the H5N1 influenza virus at the time of sample collection” had been evaluated by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, and “all samples tested negative for H5N1.”

The USDA declared, “These results reaffirm that the meat supply is safe.”
Nine states—Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas—have reported cases of avian flu in dairy cows.

To guarantee the security of the meat supply, the USDA emphasized that it has long maintained a “rigorous meat inspection process”.

Thorough Testing Done

Dr. Jose Emilio Esteban, USDA undersecretary for food safety, stated during a news conference on Wednesday: “I want to underscore, we are fairly convinced that the beef supply is secure. Our goal in doing this is to improve our scientific understanding and ensure that we have more evidence to support our claims.”

According to the USDA, ground beef is also injected with a “virus surrogate” and cooked at various temperatures to determine the extent of viral eradication at each heat level.

As well, “ We recommend consumers properly handle raw meats and cook to safe internal temperature,”  which kills germs in the meat , the agency added.

Additionally, the US Food and Drug Administration declared on Wednesday that it has ruled out the presence of the live H5N1 virus in a wide range of dairy products, including sour cream and cottage cheese. 297 pasteurized dairy items sold in retail settings were examined.

Federal health officials said on Friday that they have begun testing retail milk samples for the live avian flu virus and that none has been discovered in any of the initial batch of samples examined.

Meat Supply Safety Assured

According to regulators, the public should be reassured by these preliminary results that the milk sold in supermarkets is still safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated in the online post that the preliminary test results probably indicate that the virus is being killed by the pasteurization procedure.

The government stated, “These results reaffirm our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” although more testing is needed.
“The FDA is further assessing retail samples from its study of 297 samples of retail dairy products from 38 states,” it stated. “All samples with a PCR-positive result are going through egg inoculation tests, a gold standard for determining if infectious virus is present.”

FDA’s Dairy Product Findings

“These important efforts are ongoing, and we are committed to sharing additional testing results as soon as possible,” the Food and Drug Administration stated.

Additionally, powdered milk formulae for infants and toddlers were checked by FDA inspectors, who reported that they found no signs of the virus.

In contrast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said last week that genetic pieces of the bird flu virus were found in around 20% of retail milk samples examined in a nationwide survey.

According to that previous discovery, dairy cows have been affected by avian flu significantly more extensively than initially believed by authorities.

The agency observed that samples from regions of the nation with infected dairy cows were more likely to test positive, and officials emphasized that there is currently no proof that cow milk is harmful to people.

FDA Checks Infant Formulae

Nevertheless, it has been determined that 36 herds in nine states have contracted H5N1, generally known as bird flu.

According to Richard Webby, a virologist and influenza specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, “it suggests that there is a whole lot of this virus out there” (New York Times).

Webby pointed out that although it is still feasible to completely eliminate avian flu from the country’s dairy farms, doing so would be difficult without knowing the entire extent of the epidemic.

Challenges in Dairy Farms

In light of this, the USDA declared this week that testing dairy cows traveling across state boundaries is now required. Prior to then, cows were only tested voluntarily and only when they showed overt signs of disease.

Twenty-three individuals had tested positive for the virus as of Wednesday, while 44 others who had been exposed to H5N1 were under observation, according to the Times. There has only been one case of human infection to yet, and that was in a dairy worker in Texas who came into close contact with ill cows. The situation was not serious.

Nonetheless, a prolonged epidemic among cows would increase the virus’s potential to transmit to people. Pasteurization, which involves quickly heating milk, is thought by experts to eliminate the virus.
The Times was informed by Samuel Alcaine, a microbiologist and food scientist at Cornell University in New York, “And when you destroy the virus, it’s going to release genetic material.”