Expanded testing comes as Colombia imposes beef trade restrictions over the outbreak in dairy cows.

By Nathan Owens Reporter

US tests ground beef from grocery stores amid bird flu concerns

Ground beef patties move on a conveyor belt at a meat packing and distribution facility in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Food safety officials are testing ground beef samples from grocery stores for the presence of bird flu as an outbreak in dairy cows raises concerns of trade restrictions in the meat industry. 

The Department of Agriculture on Monday confirmed it has begun three studies, including one of retail beef in states where dairy cows tested positive for bird flu. It is also analyzing muscle samples from condemned dairy cows sent to slaughter and conducting a beef cooking study to determine the livability of the virus at different temperatures.

“Results from these studies are forthcoming and we will share information as it becomes available,” a USDA spokesperson said in an email to Agriculture Dive.

The additional testing comes days after Colombia banned U.S. meat exports from affected states, becoming the first state to do so. Industry groups say the restrictions are scientifically baseless, but could be a catalyst for other countries to enact similar bans.

Exporters are beginning to report issues in the Dominican Republic, according to the U.S. Meat and Export Federation. Stakeholders should proceed with caution and expect clearance delays on beef shipments from states dealing with bird flu in cattle, said Joe Schuele, vice president of communications.

“USDA has engaged Colombian officials on this matter and we appreciate their efforts to get the market fully reopened,” Schuele said in an email to Agriculture Dive.

Bird flu has been confirmed in 34 dairy herds across nine states, with the Food and Drug Administration detecting inactive remnants of the virus in approximately 20% of retail samples. 

Unproductive dairy cows are often slaughtered for beef, but there have been no official reports of beef-raised cattle testing positive for bird flu.

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