The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has revealed that it is testing ground beef at retail for the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1—also known as the “bird flu”—as the virus continues to spread through U.S. cattle herds. The agency stresses that the U.S. meat supply is safe.

USDA confirmed the claim that it is testing retail ground beef for HPAI, explaining that the agency is working on three different beef safety studies related to HPAI H5N1 in cattle: 1) sampling and testing via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of ground beef at retail in states with confirmed cases of the virus, 2) beef muscle sampling of cull dairy cows condemned at USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)-inspected slaughter facilities, and 3) a ground beef cooking study.

Previously, USDA issued a federal order mandating HPAI H5N1 testing for dairy cows.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has its eye on the ongoing HPAI outbreak. The agency has been testing retail milk samples for the virus, and although preliminary findings show HPAI H5N1 genetic material in one in five samples, further testing is required to determine whether intact HPAI H5N1 is present in retail milk and if it remains infectious. Additional preliminary results from other agency sampling and testing activities have demonstrated the efficacy of pasteurization against HPAI, supporting FDA’s confidence in the safety of the U.S. milk supply.

On April 1, 2024, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a person in Texas tested positive for HPAI H5N1 after being exposed to infected dairy cattle—the second confirmed case of the virus in the U.S., following a previous human case that occurred in 2022 in Colorado.