Explained: Is eating poultry products safe amid bird flu?

Explained: Is eating poultry products safe amid bird flu?

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bird flu

WHO guidelines and experts recommend that it is safe to eat properly cooked eggs, chicken, and other poultry products.

By Nabeela Khan

While there was hope to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, bird flu has started spreading fear again. People are afraid that the bird flu which is also a viral disease may turn into an epidemic. Due to this fear, many are sceptical of buying and eating chicken and other poultry products and the demand for chickens and chicken products has declined drastically.

Poultry Federation of India president Ramesh Khatri told Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) that chicken sales had fallen by almost 70 to 80 percent over the last few days, while prices had fallen 50 percent. Eggs are also being sold at high discounts.

However, the WHO guidelines on avian influenza commonly known as bird flu suggest that it is safe to eat poultry products as long as they are cooked properly.

“The virus is sensitive to heat. Normal temperatures used for cooking (so that food reaches 70°C in all parts) will kill the virus” according to World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO, in its guidelines, has explained that a large number of human infections have been linked to the home slaughter and subsequent handling of sick or dead birds prior to cooking. “These practices represent the highest risk of human infection and are the most important to avoid,” WHO said.

“Thoroughly cooked chicken meat is safe to eat especially when cooked Indian style [as the temperature reaches above 70°C]” said Dr. Sweety Samal a virologist and veterinarian at the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, India. “It’s fear and miscommunication that people have stopped eating poultry products”, she added.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most human infection with avian influenza, viruses have occurred due to direct or close contact with infected poultry, surfaces, their faeces or objects contaminated by their droppings and is the main route of transmission to humans but is occasional.