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Current evidence suggests that the most likely means of transmission for the virus is close human contact with live infected birds. There is no evidence to suggest that the consumption of cooked poultry or eggs could transmit the avian flu to humans. All the evidence to date indicates that thorough cooking will kill the virus.

While unlikely, transmission of the virus to humans from consumption of uncooked or undercooked eggs or poultry cannot be completely ruled out. To limit potential risks, poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked to kill any possible viruses or bacteria. Proper safe food handling practices such as handwashing and keeping poultry and egg products separate from other food products to avoid cross contamination should be followed. This is consistent with long standing advice from Health Canada and other health authorities through out the world.

Health Canada will continue working in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and our international partners such as the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, to monitor the safety of poultry products as it relates to avian flu.

Questions and Answers

Are poultry and eggs safe to eat?

There is no evidence to suggest that the avian influenza virus can be transmitted to humans through the consumption of food, notably poultry and eggs. Consumers should follow the long standing advice from health authorities that poultry and eggs should be thoroughly cooked to protect themselves from the possible risks of food poisoning. To limit the risk of infection, not only from avian influenza but from other foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, consumers should ensure that poultry is thoroughly cooked (juice runs clear and no visible pink meat). Internal temperatures for whole chicken should reach 85°C, for chicken parts should reach 74°C and eggs should be cooked until the yolk is no longer runny. For additional information, please see Poultry Safety.

Is it possible to get avian influenza by handling raw poultry and eggs?

While there is no documented evidence of anyone getting avian flu from handling raw poultry or eggs, safe food handling practices should be followed especially as these products often contain foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella. Consumers should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds, particularly after having handled raw poultry and raw eggs. Also, consumers should separate raw poultry and raw eggs from other food products to avoid cross-contamination. Any plates, utensils, etc., that have been in contact with raw poultry or raw eggs should be washed in hot soapy water, rinsed and dried or washed in a dishwasher. To avoid getting a foodborne illness from disease-causing bacteria, consumers should follow safe food handling practices as described by the Partnership for Food Safety Education.

For more information about avian influenza health concerns, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have prepared an Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) It's Your Health.

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