Colombia pauses U.S. beef imports over avian flu in livestock

Colombia pauses U.S. beef imports over avian flu in livestock
Apr 26, 2024

The South American country is the first to take this action

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A U.S. trading partner has acted in response to avian flu outbreaks in U.S. livestock.

Colombia started restricting fresh and frozen beef and beef products processed on or after April 15, an April 22 notice on the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website says.

The pause applies to eight states – Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota and Texas – each of the states with confirmed cases of avian flu in dairy cattle.

The South American country, a top volume market in South America for U.S. beef with about $40 billion of exports in 2023, is the first international partner to restrict market access.

And this action is unnecessary, the U.S. Meat Export Federation says.

“The restrictions Colombia has imposed on U.S. beef as a result of the recent highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) findings in lactating dairy cows have no scientific basis,” the organization said in an April 26 statement.

These restrictions are causing uncertainty and importers and their customers, the organization added.

Colombia’s actions came after traces of the H5N1 virus were found in pasteurized and commercially sold milk.

Initial results from Food and Drug Administration testing “show about 1 in 5 of the retail samples tested” are positive for “fragments” of the virus, the FDA said in an April 25 update, adding that a larger proportion of the positive tests came from milk in areas with infected cattle.

Despite those findings, the FDA says it hasn’t seen evidence to suggest the commercial milk supply isn’t safe.

To help mitigate any further domestic spread, the USDA is implementing new testing rules.

As of April 29, dairy cattle destined for interstate movement must be tested and confirmed negative for the Influenza A virus. Any positive results must be reported to APHIS and state vets.

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