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Food Safety Focus (15th Issue, October 2007) – Food Incident Highlight

Avian Influenza Viruses and Food Safety

In light of the recent outbreak of avian influenza (H5N1) among ducklings in Guangdong province, there are again concerns over the risk of transmission of avian influenza from poultry and their products to humans.

Avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strains of influenza virus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), direct contact with live infected poultry is considered as the principal source of human infection.

Thorough cooking of poultry meat and eggs, with centre temperature reaching at least 70°C, can prevent avian influenza infection as it inactivates the virus. There is no evidence that properly cooked poultry products can be a source of infection.

Members of the public are also advised to observe good personal, food and environmental hygiene at all times to minimise the risk of infection. Direct contacts of live poultry and their faeces or blowing their bottoms should be avoided at point of purchase. In addition, as general precautionary measures, hands and equipment should be cleaned thoroughly after preparing poultry products or eggs. Cross contamination of raw and cooked foods should be prevented. Please visit the CFS website for further information on avian influenza.

Illustration: Ducklings