Federal government says it is testing ground beef for bird flu virus

The agency said it would test for any signs of the virus, but remains confident the meat supply is safe, according to Reuters.

The U.S. government is collecting samples of ground beef at retail stores in states with outbreaks of bird flu in dairy cows, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.

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The agency said it would test for any signs of the virus, but remains confident the meat supply is safe, according to Reuters.

Federal officials announced last week that it had confirmed the H5N1 virus in 34 dairy cattle herds in nine states since late March, and in one person in Texas who had worked with the infected cows.

The Department of Agriculture announced it would be sampling ground beef purchased at grocery stores in states where dairy cattle have tested positive for the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

It is also taking samples of muscle tissue from sick cows that have been culled from their herd and is conducting cooking studies, which will inoculate ground beef with a “virus surrogate” and cook it to different temperatures to see how much virus is killed under each heat setting.

In addition:

· The USDA on Monday began requiring lactating dairy cows to test negative for bird flu before being moved across state lines as officials seek to contain the virus.

· Owners of herds in which dairy cattle test positive for interstate movement will be required to provide epidemiological information, including animal movement tracing.

· Dairy cattle moving interstate must adhere to conditions specified by APHIS.

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

In addition, remnants of the virus were found in milk from some of those cows that was on grocery store shelves.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday that preliminary results of PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) tests showed pasteurization killed the bird flu virus in milk, though.

On April 16, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service microbiologists identified a shift in an H5N1 sample from a cow in Kansas that could indicate that the virus has an adaptation to mammals, according to a statement from the USDA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted further tests of the specimen sequence and said the overall risk factor of the virus infecting the general public had not changed.

The shift has been seen previously in other mammalian infections and it did not impact viral transmission, the agency said.

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