Bird Flu – Taking Precautions
In its excellent booklet, Avian Influenza: Assessing the Pandemic Threat, the World Health Organization has included the following advice:
As a general rule, WHO recommends that all meats, including that from poultry, be thoroughly cooked, so that all parts of the meat reach an internal temperature of 70 degrees centigrade. This temperature will kill an influenza virus and thus render safe any raw poultry meat contaminated with H5N1 virus.
In countries affected by H5N1 outbreaks, eggs should also be thoroughly cooked, as some studies have detected virus in raw eggs.
To date, epidemiological investigations have not linked any human cases to the consumption of poultry products. Strong evidence does, however, point to a far greater risk: exposure to the virus during the slaughter of infected birds and their preparation for cooking.
The booklet also includes the following practical guidelines:
1. Avoid contamination
Separate raw meat from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Do not use the same chopping board or the same knife for preparing raw meat and cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Do not handle both raw and cooked foods without washing your hands in between and do not place cooked meat back on the same plate or surface it was on before it was cooked.
2. Cook thoroughly
Thorough cooking will inactivate influenza viruses. Either ensure that the poultry meat reaches 70 degrees centigrade or that the meat is not pink and there are no pink juices.
3. Be careful with eggs
Eggs, too, may carry pathogens, such as the bird flu virus inside or on their shells. Care must be taken in handling raw eggs and shells. Wash shells in soapy water and wash hands afterwards. Egg yolks should not be runny or liquid. Do not use raw or soft-boiled eggs in foods that will not be cooked.
4. Keep clean
After handling raw or thawed raw poultry or eggs, wash your hands and all surfaces and utensils thoroughly with soap and water.