Bird Flu Found in Beef for First Time

USDA says it's confident meat supply is safe
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2024 2:58 PM CDT
Bird Flu Found in Cow Sent to Slaughter
Dairy cattle feed at a farm near Vado, New Mexico.   (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)

In what the US Department of Agriculture sees as a sign that its protocols are working, bird flu has been found in beef tissue for the first time at a federally inspected meat processing plant. The virus was found in tissue from a dairy cow that had been sent to slaughter, Quartz reports. The USDA said it was one of 96 cows diverted from the meat supply because inspectors noticed signs of illness during routine inspections, reports CBS News. The virus wasn't found in the other cows.

  • The agency "is confident that the meat supply is safe," the USDA said in a report released Friday. "USDA has a rigorous meat inspection process, which includes Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) veterinarians who are present at all federal livestock slaughter facilities. FSIS personnel inspect each animal before slaughter, and all cattle carcasses must pass a second 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 continue to recommend consumers properly handle raw meats and cook to a safe internal temperature," the agency said.
  • The USDA said that in a study earlier this month, it inoculated beef patties with high levels of the H5N1 virus. It said there was no virus present in well-done patties cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or medium patties cooked to 145 degrees. The virus was "substantially inactivated" in rare patties cooked to 120 degrees.
  • Independent food safety expert Dr. Gail Hansen tells the New York Times that the government appears to be overly confident about the beef supply. "People do eat meat rare and even raw," she says. "So once again the assurances from government agencies, before the science is in to confirm or deny the assumptions, continue to undermine the confidence by the public."
  • The virus has been found in dairy herds in nine states but not in beef herds. Earlier this month, Quartz reported that despite warnings against consuming unpasteurized dairy products, sales of raw milk have surged more than 20% since March, apparently because of "a mistaken belief that being exposed to the virus will be beneficial to humans."
(More bird flu stories.)

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