Eating Chicken and Eggs Despite Bird Flu

By: rickstooker
To prevent consumer fears, Kentucky Fried Chicken has started putting stickers on all their containers in the U.S. guaranteeing that their fried chicken is "rigorously inspected, thoroughly cooked, quality assured."

From China to Indonesia, Turkey to Trinidad, KFC and other chicken restaurants have seen business drop as people become afraid of bird flu. The poultry industry in Europe is deep trouble as many consumers there have stopped eating chicken and eggs.

Should you stop eating chicken and eggs to avoid bird flu?

Yes, if you're eating raw or undercooked chicken or other poultry. One reason that Vietnam has more cases of bird flu in people is that they like to eat a delicacy -- raw duck blood pudding. One of the ways the Vietnamese government used to get bird flu under control is to discourage the preparation of this dish. So that's partly why Vietnam has not reported any bird flu cases in people so far in 2006.

Therefore, it's definitely good advice to not eat raw chicken (or duck).

Since most people around the world eat their chicken cooked not raw, the most common risk from eating chicken comes from first slaughtering, de-feathering, eviscerating and cooking infected chickens. This puts you in contact with the dead bird's blood and vital organs and you could become infected with H5N1 in this manner.

Well cooked chicken meat and eggs are safe to eat if cooked properly, according to a joint statement issued by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). They issued this statement in December 2005 through the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN).

Cooked properly means the meat and eggs must be completely heated to 70 degrees Celsius or 158 degrees Fahrenheit, so there is no red or raw meat.

However, they also recommend that meat and eggs from chickens known to be infected with H5N1 not be used as food.

I've seen people ask, "If it's safe to eat chicken when it's well-cooked, why do they burn infected chickens instead of eating them, especially since those countries are poor and the people are hungry?"

Ask a government employee what CYA stands for. I'm sure that in Vietnam and Thailand they have different letters for it, but they understand the concept. Even in countries not run by lawyers, government officials understand they don't want to be blamed for people's mistakes.

That is -- if you give enough people dead bird flu infected chickens and tell them to make sure they cook the chickens thoroughly, some numbskull will NOT cook it thoroughly, eat some that's still pink and raw, get sick and die and their relatives will blame you.

If the relatives won't, the international press will. Since it's still a communist government, Vietnam probably doesn't care much that a few farming families would blame it for the failure of the relatives to properly cook the chickens.

But they certainly know how to play the PR game with the world press -- it's how they defeated the world's mightiest superpower, after all -- and so they don't want reporters from CNN broadcasting their bird flu deficiencies to the rest of the world.

To their credit, the government of Vietnam has realized that bird flu is a dangerous threat to their poultry and their people and therefore have taken stringent steps to bring it under control.

Furthermore, although properly cooked H5N1-infected chicken meat is not dangerous to eat, it is IS dangerous to prepare. A lot of documented cases of bird flu came from people handling the uncooked carcasses of infected birds.

So it is much safer to simply burn them. Nobody gets to eat them, but that prevents anybody from getting sick from eviscerating and cooking them.

If you do cook chicken, separate the raw meat from any cooked or ready to eat foods, to avoid any contamination. Do not chop them up on the same board or with the same knife. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap in between handling the meat and afterward. "Thoroughly" means for at least 30 seconds.

Wash all plates and utensils carefully and thoroughly.

Then wash your hands again and rub a germicidal hand lotion such as "No-Germs" or isopropyl alcohol on your hands.

To be completely safe, let Kentucky Fried Chicken or any other restaurant cook the chicken for you.

Therefore, KFC and other such places are actually the safest way to eat chicken.
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