Monday, May 08, 2006

USDA Develops Test For Bird Flu In Poultry Meat

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A new test, just weeks from final readiness, will allow the government for the first time to test poultry meat for the deadly Asian H5N1 strain of bird flu, an added assurance for consumers that may be worried about eating chicken if the disease is found in the U.S.

Richard Raymond, the top food safety official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview Friday that major poultry companies have all promised to allow the government to do the testing if it’s needed.

If there is an outbreak of H5N1 in a commercial poultry flock, Raymond said, the USDA will want to test the meat recently produced from birds raised where the infection occurred.

The USDA has “a plan with industry where they will voluntarily hold that product and we will test it,” he said.

Raymond said he has spoken with representatives of the National Chicken Council, the National Turkey Federation and major companies such as Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN), Perdue Farms Inc. (PDU.XX), and Cargill Inc. (CRG.XX) about the plan.

“They all agree that the right thing to do is hold the product, test it so we can assure the American public that no infected product has entered the food chain,” Raymond said.

Up until now, the USDA could only test birds for bird flu by examining secretions and body cavities, but USDA scientists are now in the final “validating” stage of readying the meat test, which was developed just this year.

Sources used in this Avian influenza story:

Dow Jones News Service

Posted by john T. on 05/08 at 05:41 AM
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