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Experts Confirm Safety of U.S. Food Supply Amid Bird Flu Outbreak

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In response to the recent outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus affecting poultry and cattle, experts and federal agencies ensure that America’s food supply remains safe. Cooking meat to proper temperatures and pasteurizing milk effectively neutralizes the virus, ensuring that these products are safe to consume, according to officials from the CDC, FDA, and other health authorities.

Dr. Jeff Bender, a public health veterinarian and professor at the University of Minnesota, emphasized the safety of commercially available milk and meat. “With pasteurization and cooking, the virus is killed, making these products safe for consumption,” Bender explained to ABC News. However, he advised caution with unpasteurized milk and cheeses, which have raised concerns among health officials.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consistently advise against consuming raw milk products due to their susceptibility to harboring viruses and bacteria that can lead to severe foodborne illnesses.

Dr. Sumiko Mekaru, Vice President of Research & Innovation at PHC Global, highlighted that federal regulations require interstate milk to be pasteurized, minimizing risks. “The legal requirements for pasteurization across state lines enhance the safety of our milk supply,” Mekaru noted.

The USDA reports no current impact on milk supply or pricing, attributing stability to seasonally higher production during the spring. Similarly, the safety of the meat supply remains uncompromised, with standard cooking practices effectively eliminating potential pathogens.

The outbreak has led to significant measures in the poultry industry, including the depopulation of nearly two million chickens by the largest egg producer in the U.S. after H5N1 was detected. The Texas Department of Agriculture confirmed these actions were necessary to control the spread of the virus.

While H5N1 has been observed in various mammals, the USDA and experts like Dr. Mekaru remain cautious about the possibility of mammal-to-mammal transmission, suggesting that infections may primarily arise from avian sources. The CDC also acknowledges the potential, albeit rare, transmission from mammal to mammal.

Ongoing research aims to understand how H5N1 affects different species and its transmission dynamics. “Each species has unique biological characteristics, which influences how they may be affected by the virus,” Mekaru added.

With the situation evolving, health officials continue to monitor and respond to this outbreak, emphasizing biosecurity and preventive measures to safeguard public health and the integrity of the food supply.

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