USDA to test beef for H5N1 influenza virus

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

USDA to test beef for H5N1 influenza virus

This week the USDA announced it is working on three separate beef safety studies related to avian influenza in dairy cattle.

The first study will involve sampling of ground beef at retail outlets in the states in which dairy cow herds have tested positive for H5N1 influenza virus. The samples will then be analyzed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service using polymerase chain reaction, which indicates whether any viral particles are present.

Beef muscle sampling of cull dairy cows condemned at select Food Safety and Inspection Service-inspected slaughter facilities will be examined in the second study. Similarly, the samples will be analyzed by APHIS using PCR to determine presence of viral particles. For both retail and at slaughter samples, any PCR positives will be evaluated for live virus by the Agricultural Research Service.

Finally, ARS will be conducting a beef cooking study, where they 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."

Last week Colombia 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 Friday, 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."

After the USDA issued a nationwide order requiring lactating dairy cows to test negative for HPAI before interstate transport, the Meat Institute issued a statement maintaining that properly prepared beef remains safe to eat and called for the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide worker safety guidance specific to beef processors to ensure workers are protected from infection.

“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,” said Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the Meat Institute.

“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.”

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