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World Health Organization (WHO) Says Poultry Products Do Not Transmit Avian Influenza

Affirms Food Safety of Poultry

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GENEVA, November 23, 2005 - In a new advisory to the public, the World Health Organization has affirmed that people can eat poultry and poultry products without worrying about catching avian influenza. “Avian influenza is not transmitted through cooked food,” WHO said in a statement from its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Raw products can be handled with the usual hygienic precautions with no fear of avian influenza, the organization said.

The United States does not have the H5N1 avian influenza virus currently causing problems in Asia.

WHO made the statement in a new response on food safety in its “Frequently Asked Questions" on avian influenza. Here is the response in its entirety:


Is it safe to eat poultry and poultry products?

Yes, though certain precautions should be followed in countries currently experiencing outbreaks. In areas free of the disease, poultry and poultry products can be prepared and consumed as usual (following good hygienic practices and proper cooking), with no fear of acquiring infection with the H5N1 virus.

In areas experiencing outbreaks, poultry and poultry products can also be safely consumed provided these items are properly cooked and properly handled during food preparation. The H5N1 virus is sensitive to heat. Normal temperatures used for cooking (70 degrees Celsius in all parts of the food) will kill the virus. Consumers need to be sure that all parts of the poultry are fully cooked (no “pink” parts) and that eggs, too, are properly cooked (no “runny” yolks).

Consumers should also be aware of the risk of cross-contamination. Juices from raw poultry and poultry products should never be allowed, during food preparation, to touch or mix with items eaten raw. When handling raw poultry or raw poultry products, persons involved in food preparation should wash their hands thoroughly and clean and disinfect surfaces in contact with the poultry products. Soap and hot water are sufficient for this purpose.

In areas experiencing outbreaks in poultry, raw eggs should not be used in foods that will not be further heat-treated as, for example by cooking or baking.

Avian influenza is not transmitted through cooked food. To date, no evidence indicates that anyone has become infected following the consumption of properly cooked poultry or poultry products, even when these foods were contaminated with the H5N1 virus.


For more information, please see:

http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/avian_faqs/en/print.html#poultry