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Bird Flu Virus and Cooking Beef

The bird flu virus (H5N1 virus) has now been found in a number of American dairy herds and in raw milk from infected cows. Thus the medical advice is to avoid raw milk and raw milk products (such as raw milk cheeses). But medical experts and the CDC are now also warning about thoroughly cooking eggs and meat.

The virus is now in numerous dairy herds, in chicken flocks, and there have been outbreaks among more than 200 mammalian species. This is why medical advice is to avoid eating runny eggs and raw or medium raw beef.

The USDA conducted a study in which high amounts of the virus was injected into beef. No trace of the virus was left after the meat was cooked medium to well done (about 145 to 160 degrees F), but the virus was found in meat cooked to lower temperatures (120 degrees F). [By the way, the USDA recently tested 30 samples of grocery store ground beef and all 30 tested negative for the bird flu virus. But it was only 30 samples!!]

CDC guidelines for Preparing and Consuming Food:

For poultry:

  • Cooking poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165˚F kills bacteria and viruses, including bird flu viruses. People should separate uncooked (raw) poultry from cooked foods and foods that won’t be cooked. Cook all poultry and poultry products (including eggs) all the way before eating. More information about safe handling and cooking of poultry can be found here: Chicken and Food Poisoning 

For beef:

  • Cooking beef to the appropriate internal temperature kills bacteria and viruses, including avian influenza viruses. Cook all beef products thoroughly before eating. Refer to this list of safe minimum internal temperatures for different cuts of beef. Separate uncooked (raw) beef from cooked foods or foods that won’t be cooked to prevent cross-contamination.

Eating uncooked or undercooked poultry or beef can make you sick. In addition, people should not eat or drink raw milk or products made with raw milk. More information is available at How to Prevent Food Poisoning.

While there is no evidence that anyone in the United States has gotten bird flu after eating properly handled and cooked poultry products, uncooked poultry and poultry products (like blood) could have been the source of a small number of bird flu virus infections in people in Southeast Asia. Visit CDC’s Chicken and Food Poisoning web page for instructions on handling poultry safely.

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