Egg Consumption and Avian Influenza

Information from the Egg Safety Center

WASHINGTON, November 7, 2005 - U.S. eggs are safe to eat and would remain safe in the unlikely event of an avian flu outbreak in this country, according to Hilary Shallo Thesmar, PhD, Director of the Egg Safety Center in Washington, DC.

In response to recent media reports, Dr. Thesmar stressed that, unlike in Asia and many other parts of the world, U.S. eggs undergo a very stringent washing and sanitizing process prior to delivery. She said this process would destroy any virus particles present on the shell surface. When eggs are cooked properly, as they and all poultry products should be, any virus particles inside the egg are destroyed.

One of the first symptoms that a chicken has developed avian influenza is a drop in egg production. Reports of 'healthy' carrier chickens which continue to lay eggs despite being infected have been limited to the Far East, where poor vaccination practices have been blamed. Any eggs laid at the outset of an AI infection are typically of poor quality and would be unlikely to get past the rigorous U.S. grading and inspection process. In addition, the time a batch of eggs takes to go from farm to store is typically between three and seven days, which is sufficient time to identify and remove eggs from market.

According to the American Association of Avian Pathologists and the American College of Poultry Veterinarians, an outbreak such as the H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in poultry is unlikely in the U.S. Dr. Thesmar points out that considerable effort is being expended by the poultry industry and the government to prevent and, if necessary, contain any avian influenza outbreak. Egg producers have tightened their bio-security procedures on farms to prevent infection and are closely monitoring their flocks for any signs of illness.

The type of avian influenza in the U.S. in past years has been a less virulent and different strain from the highly pathogenic type in Asia and Europe. In Asia it is believed that any human illnesses have occurred from direct contact with diseased birds and there is no evidence that anyone has become ill from eating eggs.

"Americans can feel perfectly safe in enjoying eggs as usual," Dr. Thesmar said.

Jani Aronow, APR or Emma Burnaby-Atkins
Aronow Communications

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