Humans cannot get avian influenza from poultry and eggs

Avian influenza has been found in the Midwest and Canada, but shouldn't impact your food purchasing or eating decisions.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  recently reported that avian influenza has infected poultry farms in the Midwest and Canada. Consumers, however, don’t need to worry about contracting avian influenza (sometimes erroneously referred to as “bird flu”) from eating poultry or eggs.

Avian influenza pathogens -- sometimes found in wild birds, backyard poultry flocks and commercial poultry farms -- are considered by the CDC to pose a low risk of contagion to people. “Avian influenza” refers to infection of birds with avian influenza Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Humans cannot get avian influenza from poultry and eggs.

Poultry should always be properly handled and cooked. Michigan State University Extension advises consumers to follow these safe food practices when storing, handling and cooking poultry:

  • Use a meat thermometer to make sure that your poultry is cooked all the way through. The inside of your chicken should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the entire piece to kill food-borne pathogens that might be present, such as Salmonella and E. coli.
  • Never eat raw eggs or food with raw egg ingredients such as cookie dough or cake batter (as tempting as it may be). Thoroughly cook all dishes containing raw eggs.
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds (equal to singing the “Happy Birthday” song all the way through twice) before and after handling food.
  • Prevent cross-contamination of foods by keeping all raw poultry and their juices away from other items. After cutting raw poultry, wash your cutting board, knife and countertops with hot, soapy water. Then sanitize cutting boards by using a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water.
  • Never leave raw poultry at room temperature. Place raw poultry in the bottom of the refrigerator in a bowl or on a plate. If raw poultry is not used within one to two days, freeze it for no longer than 12 months for best quality.
  • Store cooked poultry in the refrigerator for no longer than three days. You can store cooked poultry in the freezer for up to 12 months.
  • Never wash raw poultry. The juices that splash during washing can transfer bacteria onto the surfaces of your kitchen, other foods and utensils.
  • If cooking in an oven, place the poultry in a roasting pan and set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Always cook poultry, including ground poultry, to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check temperature with a food thermometer and remember to always reheat poultry leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • When barbecuing outdoors, keep poultry refrigerated until it is ready to be cooked. Do not place cooked poultry on the same plate that was used for raw poultry.
  • When marinating raw poultry, always throw away used marinade. Never reuse the marinade from raw poultry on cooked poultry.

Following these food safety practices can help keep your family safe from food-borne illness at home.

Did you find this article useful?