Bird Flu: FSSAI advises consumers not to eat undercooked chicken, says 'no need to panic'

The regulator also advised consumers not to purchase eggs or poultry meat sourced from bird flu-infected areas and to avoid going to open markets in infected areas that sell poultry

Press Trust of India January 21, 2021 20:28:11 IST
Bird Flu: FSSAI advises consumers not to eat undercooked chicken, says 'no need to panic'

Representational Image. AFP

New Delhi: In view of the bird flu scare, regulator FSSAI on Thursday advised consumers not to eat half-boiled eggs and undercooked chicken, and ensure proper cooking of poultry meat as it came out with a detailed set of guidelines.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has also urged consumers and food businesses "not to panic" and ensure proper handling and cooking of poultry meat and eggs for safe consumption as outlined in the guidance document.

The outbreak of bird flu or avian influenza has been confirmed in 'poultry birds' in six states – Kerala, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Punjab.

In India, bird flu is spread mainly by migratory birds coming into the country during winter months between September and March.

In a statement, the FSSAI said it has issued the guidance document titled 'Safe handling, processing and consumption of poultry meat and eggs during bird flu outbreak' suggesting precautions to be taken at retail meat shops, and by consumers and that handling/processing poultry meat.

According to the regulator, bird flu is an infection caused by avian influenza viruses. These flu viruses occur naturally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually do not get sick from them. However, bird flu is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chicken and ducks, very sick and kill them.

Most strains of avian influenza virus are mainly found in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts of infected birds, and not in meat. However, highly pathogenic viruses, such as the H5N1 strain, spread to virtually all parts of an infected bird, including meat.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus can be found inside and on the surface of eggs laid by infected birds. Although sick birds will normally stop producing eggs, eggs laid in the early phase of the disease could contain viruses in the egg-white and yolk as well as on the surface of the shell.

"Proper cooking inactivates the virus present inside the meat and eggs. Poultry meat and eggs from areas with outbreaks in poultry should not be consumed raw or partially cooked," the FSSAI said.

However, to date, no evidence indicates that anyone has become infected following the consumption of properly cooked poultry or poultry products, even if these foods were contaminated with the avian influenza virus, it noted.

Suggesting major "dos and don'ts", the FSSAI advised consumers not to eat half-boiled eggs and undercooked chicken and also not keep raw meat in open as well as not have direct contact with raw meat.

It also said that people should not have direct contact with birds in the infected areas, avoid touching dead birds with bare hands and use mask/ gloves at the time of handling raw chicken.

Further, the regulator advised consumers not to purchase eggs/ poultry meat sourced from bird flu-infected areas and avoid going to open markets that sell poultry in infected areas.

For retail shops, the FSSAI asked them not to bring any live or slaughtered/ dead poultry birds from the avian influenza outbreak areas and also not allow it to enter into the food chain.

People handling raw meat should wear gloves, masks and wash their hands properly with water and soap, especially before and after handling the raw poultry and eggs. Further, contact should be avoided with bird droppings, it added.

As per the guidlines, all surfaces and utensils that have been in contact with the raw meat should be washed and disinfected.

Clean and sanitise the knives and cutting boards between cutting/ slaughtering two birds, it said, adding that all the waste generated from the retail poultry shop must be properly disposed.

While handling and cooking of poultry meat, the FSSAI suggested not to wash the chicken in running water as it may cause water splashing and spread of droplets contaminating the surroundings.

It also said that people should use gloves and masks during the handling and preparation of raw poultry/ poultry products. After handling raw poultry meat, wash hands and other exposed parts with soap and water.

Do not use the same chopping board or the same knife that is used for cutting raw poultry meat for any other food item before sanitising it or thoroughly washing it with soap/ detergent, it added.

The regulator also mentioned that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated it is safe to consume poultry meat and eggs and there is no epidemiological data to suggest the disease can be transmitted to humans through cooked food.

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