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USDA is confident that the meat supply is safe

USDA said publicly on Monday, April 29, 2024, that they were collecting ground beef samples for testing from states officially affected by H5N1 in cattle. 

On May 1, 2024, the USDA announced that the initial 30 ground beef samples tested negative using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. This means no H5N1 virus fragments or whole virus were detected in the meat.

The announcement stated, "USDA is confident that the meat supply is safe. USDA has a rigorous meat inspection process, where USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) 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."

Research is ongoing and is focused on three studies at this time. The studies are a collaborative effort between USDA’s FSIS, APHIS, and Agricultural Research Service (ARS). These studies are taking place in the interest of scientific inquiry and to reaffirm consumer confidence. 

Samples of ground beef collected from retail stores in the affected states

Samples were collected at retail outlets in the states where dairy cattle herds have tested positive for H5N1 influenza virus. The samples were analyzed by APHIS using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), to indicate whether any viral particles were present. No virus particles were found to be present. Final results were posted on May 1, 2024.

Beef muscle sampling of cull dairy cows at select FSIS-inspected slaughter facilities 

FSIS is collecting muscle samples of cull dairy cattle at FSIS-inspected slaughter facilities. The samples will be analyzed by APHIS using PCR to determine the presence of viral particles. The results are forthcoming and will be posted as soon as they become available.

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 the log-reduction of the virus. The results will be posted as soon as they become available.

Author: Joe Armstrong, DVM, Extension educator, cattle production systems

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