The U.S. Department of Agriculture has started testing beef for the presence of avian influenza in states where the virus was detected in dairy cows.

Samples of ground beef are being collected at retail outlets after the H5N1 flu virus has been identified in nine U.S. states since the first case was found last month, the USDA said in an emailed statement April 29.

In addition, it’s conducting a cooking test to log the presence of the virus when meat is prepared at different temperatures.

The testing comes as the Food and Drug Administration last week said the bird flu virus was found in about one fifth of commercial milk samples. The virus, which has resulted in the death of millions of birds since the outbreak started in the U.S. in 2022, has rattled markets for milk and meat in recent weeks on concerns over consumer demand.

The USDA said it’s confident the meat supply is safe. The department said its “rigorous” process makes sure animals pass inspection before entering the food supply. Meanwhile, pasteurizing milk and cooking beef kills the virus.

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“While we have multiple safeguards in place to protect consumers, we recommend consumers properly handle raw meats and cook to a safe internal temperature,” the USDA said in the statement.

While the presence of traces of the virus in milk doesn’t necessarily indicate a risk to consumers, more tests are needed to confirm if intact pathogen is present and remains infectious, the FDA said in a statement on its website. That would determine “whether there is any risk of illness associated with consuming the product,” it added.

The initial study results offer a stark indication of how quickly a virus that has killed millions of birds globally is spreading among U.S. dairy cows.

The FDA said there’s a higher proportion of positive tests coming from milk in areas with infected herds. The USDA has confirmed 33 infected herds in eight states including Texas, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio.

Authorities have reaffirmed that the risk to humans remain low. So far this year, the U.S. has only identified one person who has been infected — and there’s been no human-to-human transmission. The person, who had direct contact with contaminated cattle, experienced only minor symptoms and was treated with Tamiflu.

“To date, the retail milk studies have shown no results that would change our assessment that the commercial milk supply is safe,” the FDA said.

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