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Poultry Is Safe, Food Safety Expert Tells Radio Audience

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2006 - Radio listeners nationwide this week heard that properly handled and cooked poultry is safe from Asian avian influenza, and that the poultry industry is working closely with federal and state governments to keep the “bird flu” virus away from our poultry flocks and out of our food supply.

Nearly 20 radio stations and radio news services interviewed and aired the comments of Dr. Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, to educate their listeners on what they need to know about avian influenza – and that they don’t need to worry about the safety of our food supply.

Dr. Doyle’s message to radio listeners:

  • Avian influenza is principally a bird disease, not a human disease -- Although Asian avian influenza is fatal to many different kinds of birds, it is rarely contracted by people.

“Just 200 people worldwide have been sickened by bird flu over the past two and a half years, and nearly all of them had been in close contact with live, infected birds,” Dr. Doyle told radio listeners. “Bird flu is a respiratory disease which is not easily transmitted between birds and people. It’s also not transmitted through food.”

  • Measures are in place to prevent the spread of bird flu to the United States –

“To date, we have not seen the Asian form of highly pathogenic avian influenza, commonly called “bird flu,” in the United States, but the poultry industry, federal government and state governments are not taking any chances,” said Dr. Doyle.

  • Dr. Doyle told radio audiences that the poultry industry and government are coordinating closely on a program that:

    • Bans the import of poultry from countries and regions affected by bird flu.

    • Monitors wild migratory birds that might bring the virus into the United States.

    • Employs strict measures, called biosecurity, on poultry farms to maintain the health of birds grown there.

    • Tests nearly every chicken flock for bird flu before any of the animals are released from the farm.

    • Would humanely destroy all chickens in a flock if it is found to be infected, and would quarantine that farm and all surrounding areas. So far, no incursions have been detected.

  • Properly handled and cooked chicken and other poultry are safe to eat – Consumers should know that if they follow the safe handling and cooking instructions on the USDA label already found on every package of poultry and meat sold in the United States, they can be sure their chicken will be safe to eat, according to Dr. Doyle.

“In the very remote chance that infected chicken meat would make its way into our food supply, cooking the chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the avian influenza virus, as well as other types of viruses or bacteria that may be on raw meat and poultry,” Dr. Doyle told listeners.

  • Given the nature of the bird flu virus, and with all of the safeguards in place, consumers should feel confident that bird flu will be prevented, or quickly contained should it appear in the United States – Between the preventative activities of the poultry industry and government agencies, proper handling and cooking practices, and the fact that bird flu in its current form is rarely passed from birds to people, consumers should feel confident not only about the safety of their food, but their safety from contracting the Asian avian influenza virus.

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