US confirms bird flu in beef for the first time: No threat to consumers

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New development: Bird flu found in beef, USDA reassures consumers.

NEW YORK, May 25: The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Friday that bird flu has been detected in beef for the first time. However, officials reassured the public that the meat from the affected dairy cow did not enter the nation’s food supply, emphasizing that beef remains safe to consume.

According to the USDA, the H5N1 virus was discovered during testing of 96 dairy cows that were diverted from the supply due to signs of illness observed by federal inspectors during routine carcass inspections at meat processing plants. Among these cows, bird flu was detected in only one.

While bird flu has been confirmed in dairy cattle herds across nine states and has been found in milk, its presence in beef marks a new development in the ongoing outbreak that began in 2022.

In response to the outbreak, the USDA had announced plans last month to conduct testing for bird flu in ground beef sold at retail stores. However, as of now, no traces of the virus have been found in retail beef.

The USDA reassured consumers that even if bird flu were to be present in beef, cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit would effectively eliminate the virus, similar to how it destroys other harmful bacteria and viruses like E. coli.

Amid concerns over the spread of bird flu, two farmworkers at dairies in Michigan and Texas were reported to have fallen ill this spring. Health officials emphasized that while the risk to the general public remains low, farmworkers who have been exposed to infected animals are at higher risk.

To date, there has been only one other confirmed human case of bird flu in the US. In 2022, a prisoner participating in a work program contracted the virus while culling infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. The individual experienced fatigue as the sole symptom and eventually recovered.

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