Avian bird flu
NSW Food Authority advice is that avian (bird) flu does not pose a food safety risk for consumers.
Our usual advice remains to not eat cracked or dirty eggs, avoid eating raw egg, and to cook poultry thoroughly.
There has been no case reported of humans getting infected from eating food.
The NSW Food Authority closely monitors bird flu developments and any food safety implications for Australian and NSW consumers.
About Avian Bird Flu virus
There are different types of bird flu or avian influenza that can infect birds which produce food.
Most types of bird flu are less serious. Only viruses of the H5 and H7 sub-types are known to cause serious illness in birds.
Of the few sub-types that have crossed to infect humans, H5N1 has caused the largest number of severe illness cases in humans.
People catch the virus via close contact with live poultry infected with the disease, and not through eating eggs or poultry products. This is because the bird flu virus is spread to humans by breathing air contaminated with feathers and faeces from infected birds.
Very few humans have actually caught flu from infected birds.
The chance of any poultry products from birds affected by bird flu entering the food chain is very low. This is because there are measures in place to prevent sick animals from entering the food chain. Also, avian influenza usually stops birds laying eggs, and the few eggs that are laid generally would not get through egg washing and grading because the shells are weak and irregularly shaped.
Nevertheless it is prudent for consumers to take normal food safety precautions in the kitchen. The NSW Food Authority always recommends consumers follow some simple tips to minimise the risk of illness from food.
The latest scientific evidence shows the virus responsible for bird flu is killed through careful cooking - it is destroyed at temperatures above 70C - and its spread is limited by sensible handling.
Helpful tips to reduce the risk of illness from poultry and poultry products include:
Cook food properly:
- Make sure you thoroughly cook all poultry meat. A meat thermometer takes out the guess work and makes sure you have the right temperature. See cooking temperatures
- Avoid consuming raw eggs and do not eat eggs that are cracked and dirty. See enjoy eggs safely
Avoid cross contamination:
- wash your hands thoroughly and dry after touching raw poultry and meat
- store raw poultry and meat at the bottom of the fridge so it can't drip onto other foods
- always clean worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils thoroughly and dry after contact with raw poultry and meat
- use a separate chopping board and knife, for raw poultry and meat.
Latest advice from NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI)
The NSW Government department responsible for the local live poultry industry maintains a page of factsheets and common questions and answers on bird flu:
- see avian influenza NSW Department of Primary Industries
Other Australian advice
Further details on how Australia is prepared to deal with the threat of bird flu can be found at:
World Health Organisation (WHO) advice
The International Food Safety Authorities Network of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued an information note which includes advice about food safety, handling and consumption of poultry products:
- avian influenza - food safety issues pages (includes links to latest International Food Safety Authorities’ Network, INFOSAN, documents)