Eggs and poultry are safe to eat, despite news of avian influenza

With avian influenza in the news again, many people may be wondering if it is safe to consume eggs and poultry products. Currently, there is no public health or food safety concern.

Avian influenza is a virus that is naturally found in the wild populations of many birds, including gulls, terns, ducks, geese, swans. In domestic birds such as chickens and turkeys however, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is devastating. HPAI has recently been found in Nebraska in a small backyard flocks, and has also been found in several other states.

Consumers should be aware that if HPAI were to occur in commercial poultry, none of the food-related products from those flocks will go into the human food chain.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is safe to eat poultry and eggs when they are properly handled and thoroughly cooked. The CDC further asserts that “the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI A(H5) viruses.” For example, this means that over-easy and sunny side up eggs should be avoided. In addition, people should not consume meat or eggs from poultry that are sick.

According to the CDC, highly pathogenic avian influenza does not present an immediate public health concern, and no human cases of HPAI have been detected in the United States.

To stay safe from foodborne illness, follow these tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs.

• Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

• Clean your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.

• Separate raw poultry and eggs from other foods.

• Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for raw poultry.

• Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, including poultry, or eggs unless the plate has been washed in hot, soapy water.

• Cook eggs until the yolk and white of the egg are firm. Only use recipes that call for the eggs to be cooked or heated thoroughly.

• Using a food thermometer is the only way to ensure that poultry and egg-containing dishes are properly cooked. These foods must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F for poultry and 160 degrees F for egg-containing dishes.