May 20, 2022

Are Eggs Safe to Eat During the Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreak?

No doubt you have heard of the serious bird flu outbreak that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of birds, including chickens. So you may have wondered: are eggs safe to eat during the pathogenic Avian influenza outbreak? The FDA has some answers.

Are Eggs Safe to Eat During the Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreak?

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is a disease caused by a virus. It is often referred to as the bird or avian flu. The virus spreads naturally among wild aquatic birds around the world. It can and has infected domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. This virus does not normally infect humans, but one person who lives in Colorado recently tested positive for this virus. That person was involved in the culling of poultry and had direct exposure to infect birds.

On February 8, 2022, HPAI was detected in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana. As of April 26, 2022, 235 commercial and private flocks have been affected. And HPAI has been detected in 857 wild birds.  Officials are working with farmers to put control measures in place to help prevent further spread of the virus.

Are Eggs Safe to Eat During this Outbreak?

The FDA says that the number of eggs from infected poultry on the market is low, so the risk is minimal. And proper storage and preparation by consumers can further reduce the risk.

In 2010, the FDA participated in a joint risk assessment with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to look at the human health impact of this disease on poultry, shell eggs, and egg products.

The assessment found that the risk of getting with with HPAI through the consumption of contaminated shell eggs is low. One of the reasons is that the chance of infected poultry or eggs entering the food chain is low because the symptoms of this illness develop quickly. Federal inspection programs and testing of flocks also helps keep infected poultry and contaminated eggs out of the market.

And there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted to people through properly prepared food.

Properly Prepare Eggs

It’s always a good idea to properly prepare eggs to protect yourself against Salmonella and other pathogens that may be present in that product. When properly prepared and stored in the refrigerator, the risk of consumers contracting HPAI is reduced further.

Always store eggs in the refrigerator, and not in the door. The temperature in the door is higher than in the rest of the fridge. Store eggs, still in their container, on a refrigerator shelf.

Then, avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw eggs away from foods that are eaten uncooked, such as produce. Clean counters and utensils with soapy water after they have been in contact with raw eggs. And always wash your hands with soap and water after handling eggs.

When you prepare eggs, always cook them to at least 160°F as tested by a reliable and accurate food thermometer. That means, especially if you or a member of your family are in a high risk group for food poisoning, no  soft poached eggs, no sunny side up eggs, and no uncooked foods made with raw eggs, unless you are using pasteurized eggs.

Any uncooked dishes made with eggs, including eggnog, cookie dough, ice cream, and other treats should only be made with pasteurized eggs. If not, they need to be heated to 160°F too. In addition, any leftovers made with eggs, such as an egg bake or quiche, should be reheated to 165°F before serving again.

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