First USDA H5N1 study reaffirms meat supply is safe

Source: Farm Progress. The original article is posted here.

First USDA H5N1 study reaffirms meat supply is safe

Following USDA's earlier announcement this week that it is working on three separate beef safety studies related to avian influenza in dairy cattle, the Food Safety and Inspection Service has released results from its first study sampling ground beef.

FSIS collected 30 samples of ground beef from retail outlets in states with dairy cattle herds that had tested positive for the H5N1 influenza virus at the time of sample collection. The samples were sent to APHIS’ National Veterinary Services Laboratories for polymerase chain reaction testing. On May 1, NVSL reported that all samples tested negative for H5N1. USDA says these results reaffirm that the meat supply is safe.

USDA also notes the reason these studies are being conducted is in the "interest of scientific inquiry and reaffirming consumer confidence."

To verify the safety of the meat supply in the context of H5N1, USDA’s FSIS, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Agricultural Research Service are working on two other beef safety studies related to avian influenza in meat from dairy cattle.

Beef muscle sampling of cull dairy cows condemned at select FSIS-inspected slaughter facilities: FSIS is currently collecting muscle samples at FSIS-inspected slaughter facilities of cull dairy cattle that have been condemned for systemic pathologies. The samples will be analyzed by APHIS using PCR to determine presence of viral particles.

Ground beef cooking study: ARS will be conducting a beef cooking study and will be using a virus surrogate in ground beef and cooking it at different temperatures to determine log-reduction of the virus.

According to a FSIS spokesperson, results from these studies are forthcoming and information will be shared as it becomes available. However USDA is confident that the meat supply is safe.

"USDA has a rigorous meat inspection process, where USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service veterinarians are present at all federal livestock slaughter facilities. FSIS inspects each animal before slaughter, and all cattle carcasses must pass inspection after slaughter and be determined to be fit to enter the human food supply. While we have multiple safeguards in place to protect consumers, we recommend consumers properly handle raw meats and cook to a safe internal temperature. Cooking to a safe internal temperature kills bacteria and viruses in meat."

Safety, trade concerns

Last week the Meat Institute urged the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct additional testing to ensure beef remains safe to eat, as well as provide worker safety guidance specific to beef processors to ensure workers are protected from infection.

“USDA and CDC are working overtime to understand the spread of the virus and to determine its effects on the health of people and animals,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the Meat Institute. “We encourage USDA and CDC to conduct additional testing and monitoring to continue to ensure properly prepared beef remains safe to eat.

“We are also calling on USDA and CDC to issue additional, specific guidance for beef processing facilities to ensure USDA inspectors and meat company workers are protected from infection.”

“It is important to ensure the free flow of healthy animals to slaughter. The Meat Institute and its members will continue to work with USDA, state and local veterinarians and our cattle producer partners to both stop the spread of the virus and to ensure beef production continues.

“We call on Biden Administration officials to anticipate international trade concerns and encourage our trading partners to abide by internationally recognized scientific standards as determined by the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH).”

Colombia recently announced it was restricting fresh/frozen beef and beef products derived from cattle slaughtered within states where H5N1 virus was detected in dairy cattle.

In a statement issued last week, U.S. Meat Export Federation pointed out the restrictions have no scientific basis and Colombia is the only country that has officially restricted imports of U.S. beef.

“The United States is Colombia’s largest supplier of imported beef, and Colombia’s attempt to suspend beef imports from specific U.S. states is unworkable and misguided. It has created uncertainty for Colombian importers and their customers as well as their suppliers, and will greatly disrupt trade. USMEF appreciates the efforts of the U.S. government to address Colombian officials’ concerns and we are hopeful that this matter can be resolved as soon as possible."

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