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Meat tissue from sick cows tests positive for avian influenza virus

Meat tissue from sick cows tests positive for avian influenza virus
Meat tissue from sick cows tests positive for avian influenza virus


Beef tissue from sick dairy cows The test came back positive. Federal officials said Friday that it was for the avian influenza virus.

The decision was made to cull the cow because of illness and its meat was not added to the food supply, according to the USDA, which continued to stress that the commercial food supply remains safe.

But the positive test, which comes as part of an ongoing federal investigation into beef safety, has raised concerns that the virus could get into the commercial beef supply and pose a risk to human health.

So far, the virus, known as H5N1, has only been detected in dairy cows, not in cattle raised for meat, but experts say the outbreak may be a sign of a new strain of the virus. Official tally Fifty-eight dairy farms across nine states were affected.

“It's clear that this is widespread and will require continued vigilance,” said Brian Ronholm, food policy director at Consumer Reports, a consumer advocacy group.

He said he believed the overall risk to consumers was low, but added that “for added peace of mind, it will be important for consumers to cook meat to the right temperature.”

Officials and experts have said that any viruses that may get into meat would likely be killed by thorough cooking, and preliminary tests on ground beef support that idea.

But Dr. Gail Hansen, an independent food safety and veterinary health expert who has criticized the federal government's response to the dairy cow outbreak, said officials were being overconfident about the safety of beef.

“People eat meat rare and even raw,” she says, “so for a government agency to make assurances before there is scientific evidence to support or refute a hypothesis is yet another erosion of public trust.”

The USDA said the fact that inspectors were able to identify sick cows and prevent their meat from entering the food supply is proof that its measures are working. But some of the infected cows There were no symptoms Those testing systems may not pick it up: Officials have not found the virus in ground beef samples taken from stores in states where cows have tested positive.

So far, the agency's Food Safety and Inspection Service has tested tissue samples from 96 dairy cows that were culled for showing signs of disease. Only one cow's sample has tested positive for the H5N1 virus, the agency said, and it is currently testing additional muscle samples.

The findings released Friday further suggest that people need to be careful about cooking and preparing meat, said Dr. David Acheson, former chief medical officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Food safety experts recommend always cooking meat thoroughly to prevent infection with more common pathogens. SalmonellaListeria, and E. coli.

“These food safety recommendations were in place long before H5N1 became a problem and should always be our baseline standard,” said Dr. Keith Paulsen, director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Earlier this month, the USDA Announced results In a laboratory study in which researchers added high concentrations of the virus to beef patties, they found that the virus was not present in the meat when the burgers were cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the internal temperature of a well-done burger, or 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of a medium-cooked burger.

But the virus was present in the rare burger cooked at 120 degrees, but at significantly reduced levels. Cooking at that temperature “largely inactivated the virus,” the agency said.

“All indications are that cooking food kills the virus, even if it's on there,” said Stacey Schultz Cherry, a virologist and influenza expert at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Matthew Moore, a food science expert at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said experts want to know more about the positive samples, including the levels of virus they contained. It's unclear whether the virus was live or inactivated. It's also an open question whether people can get avian flu from eating contaminated food. Released on Friday Mice that drank unpasteurized milk contaminated with the virus were found to have become ill, raising concerns from experts that consuming raw milk could be harmful to humans. Several cats Some people have died from drinking contaminated raw milk.




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