FAO/WHO say good hygiene for safe preparation of poultry essential.
Chicken and other poultry are safe to eat if cooked properly,
according to a joint statement by FAO and the World Health Organization
(WHO) issued to national food safety authorities. However, no birds
from flocks with disease should enter the food chain.
FAO/WHO made the statement to clarify food safety issues in relation
to the current bird flu crisis. The statement has been issued through
the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) and
is available in six languages.
In areas where there is no bird flu outbreak in poultry, there
is no risk that consumers will be exposed to the virus via the
handling or consumption of poultry and poultry products.
Cooking of poultry (e.g. chicken, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea-fowl)
at or above 70° Celsius throughout the product, so that absolutely
no meat remains raw and red, is a safe measure to kill the H5N1
virus in areas with outbreaks in poultry, FAO/WHO said. This ensures
that there is no active virus remaining if the live bird had been
infected and had mistakenly entered the food chain. To date, there
is no epidemiological evidence that people have become infected
after eating contaminated poultry meat that has been properly cooked.
From the information currently available, a large number of confirmed
human cases acquired their infection during the home slaughtering
and subsequent handling of diseased or dead birds prior to cooking.
FAO and WHO emphasize that in the process of killing and preparing
a live bird for food, slaughtering poses the greatest risk of passing
the virus from infected or diseased birds to humans.
Most strains of avian influenza virus are mainly found in the
respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts of infected birds, and
not in meat. However, highly pathogenic viruses, such as the H5N1
strain, spread to virtually all parts of an infected bird, including
meat. Proper cooking at temperature at or above 70°C in all
parts of the product will inactivate the virus.
When a diseased bird is slaughtered, defeathered and eviscerated,
virus from that bird can transfer to humans through direct contact.
Infected poultry excrete virus in their secretions and faeces.
Exposure might also occur when the virus is inhaled through dust
and possibly through contact with surfaces contaminated with the
In areas where marketing of live birds is common, the practices
of home slaughtering, defeathering, and eviscerating increase the
exposure to potentially contaminated parts of a chicken. These
practices therefore result in a significant risk of infection in
areas with outbreaks in poultry.
It is not always possible to differentiate infected and non-infected
birds in outbreak areas. Some avian species, such as domestic ducks,
may harbour the virus without displaying symptoms. Therefore, people
need to be fully informed about preventive measures, including
the use of protective equipment. The practice of slaughtering and
eating of infected birds, whether diseased or already dead, must
be stopped, FAO and WHO warn. These birds should also not be used
for animal feed.
Even in areas or countries where outbreaks are currently occurring,
the likelihood of infected poultry entering an industrialized slaughtering
and processing chain, and eventually being marketed and handled
by a consumer or a restaurant worker, is considered to be very
low, FAO/WHO said. Good hygienic practices during preparation and
cooking poultry at temperatures of 70°C or above will further
contribute to the safety of cooked poultry meat.
Proper vaccination of domestic poultry is considered to be a useful
tool as part of an overall integrated strategy for the control
of HPAI. It must be implemented in accordance with existing standards
and procedures for vaccination. With appropriate monitoring programs
in place, vaccinated poultry can enter the food chain without particular
risk for the consumer.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus can be found inside and
on the surface of eggs laid by infected birds. Although sick birds
will normally stop producing eggs, eggs laid in the early phase
of the disease could contain viruses in the egg-white and yolk
as well as on the surface of the shell.
Proper cooking inactivates the virus present inside the eggs.
Pasteurization used by industry for liquid egg products is also
effective in inactivating the virus.
Eggs from areas with outbreaks in poultry should not be consumed
raw or partially cooked (i.e., with runny yolk), FAO/WHO advise.
To date, there is no epidemiological evidence to suggest that people
have been infected with avian influenza by consumption of eggs
or egg products.
Influenza Shouldn't Stop Farm-Fresh Turkeys Being Gobbled At
Threat to future supplies of wild game meat
Meat Industry Forum - a good return on investment