No human health risk from eating chicken

24 February, 2006. safefood, the Food Safety Promotion Board and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), reassured Irish consumers that chicken and other poultry are safe to eat. They emphasised that avian flu is a poultry disease and those humans that have been infected to date have been in direct contact with live or dead infected poultry.

Ireland is currently free from avian influenza and there are systems in place to prevent the importation of products from countries and regions where cases have occurred. The current strain of H5N1 remains primarily a disease of birds. An outbreak of avian influenza in birds in Ireland does not constitute a human pandemic.

There is no risk to consumers from eating properly cooked poultry or eggs. Cooking kills the virus quickly, within seconds of reaching 70oC, the temperature which poultry should reach throughout to be considered properly cooked.

There have been no reports of people contracting avian flu from eating poultry or eggs. It is internationally recognised that the current human health risk arises from people having close contact with birds that have the disease and not from eating poultry, or eggs.

The FSAI and safefood, following guidelines from the World Health Organization advise that poultry and poultry products can be prepared and eaten as usual, provided that they are handled hygienically while raw, and cooked thoroughly prior to consumption.

When handling raw poultry, the person involved in the food preparation should always wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Surfaces and utensils in contact with uncooked poultry products should also be thoroughly cleaned.

safefood and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland also emphasise longstanding advice about the importance of thoroughly cooking poultry. Poultry should be cooked, so that it reaches temperatures of at least 70oC in all parts of the item, ensuring that it is piping hot all the way through, with no pink meat left, and until the juices run clear.
Consumers are advised to continue to cook eggs as normal.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland and safefood will continue to monitor the situation.

Ends

For further information

Sharon Murphy or Niamh Burdett
WHPR
Tel: 01 6690030 or 087 6081316 (Sharon)/086 6086764 (Niamh)

Fiona Gilligan safefood
Tel: 01 4480600 or 087 9891682

Jane Ryder 
Food Safety Authority of Ireland      
Tel: 01 8171302 / 087 2429180