Bird Flu Update 26 October 2005

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Food Safety and Bird Flu

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) today issued advice on the importance of thoroughly cooking poultry and eggs. This reiterates long-standing advice about cooking poultry and eggs thoroughly to kill bugs and viruses.

EFSA, like the Agency, is not aware of any reports of people getting avian flu from eating poultry or eggs and recognises that the current risk is from people having contact with live birds that have the disease.

Our advice

The Agency considers that the outbreak of avian (bird) flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

For people, the risk of catching the disease comes from being in close contact with live poultry that have the disease, and not through eating poultry.

There have been no reports of people handling poultry meat getting infected. Poultry can include chicken, duck, goose, turkey and guinea fowl.

Is it safe to eat poultry meat and eggs?

On the basis of current scientific evidence, our advice is that avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. For people, the risk of catching the disease comes from being in close contact with live poultry that have the disease, and not through eating cooked poultry or eggs. We are not aware of any reports of people handling poultry meat getting infected.

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What evidence is this based on?

Our current advice is based upon the opinions of scientific experts around the world including advisors to the World Health Organization and the UK's leading independent microbiological advisory group, the Advisory Committee on Microbiological Safety in Food (ACMSF).The FSA has monitored developments since avian flu was first reported in the Far East six years ago. During that time, most human cases have had close contact with infected birds.We continue to monitor the most up-to-date information and evidence as it becomes available. The FSA will keep an open mind as to any information which may lead to our advice being updated. However, current scientific opinion agrees that avian flu is not a food safety risk.

How about touching uncooked poultry meat?

We are not aware of any reports of people handling poultry meat getting infected with avian flu. However, our advice is that you should always wash your hands after handling raw poultry meat to avoid contamination from any bugs.

If there is no food safety risk, why is the EU banning poultry meat and eggs from Romania, Turkey and other affected areas?

The EU is banning all live and dead birds and products to try to reduce the risk of the avian flu virus spreading and reaching birds in other countries. In the parts of Russia, Romania and Turkey, where birds have contracted avian flu, there have been no reported cases of humans with the virus.

Would the virus be killed by cooking poultry properly?

Cooking food properly will kill bacteria and viruses. Our advice is that poultry and eggs should always be cooked thoroughly to avoid food poisoning.

If you're cooking a whole chicken or other bird, pierce the thickest part of the leg (between drumstick and thigh) with a clean knife or skewer until the juices run out. The juices shouldn't have any pink or red in them.

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