The U.S. government is taking steps to protect the country from avian influenza, including cracking down on pet birds being smuggled into the country and researching the possibility of bird flu contamination in food.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said in a briefing Wednesday that USDA will double anti-smuggling operations at U.S. ports, restaurants and markets. Last year alone, 31 operations turned up 360,000 pounds of illegal poultry products.
Johanns stresses that the new measures are preventative. "An outbreak among birds, wild or commercial, would not signal the start of a human pandemic," he says, reminding reporters that high pathogenic avian flu has not been found in the U.S. "The virus would have to mutate and become easily transmitted between people before concerns would arise related to a human pandemic."
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration is looking into the possibility of bird flu food contamination as part of its pandemic flu plan, also released Wednesday.
FDA regulates all foods except meat, poultry, and eggs, but is looking into livestock feed most likely to be contaminated and working on tests that would detect the virus in foods.