Even though a new strain of Type A H7N9 influenza that apparently originated in a live bird market in China has infected more than 100 Chinese people, consumers can be confident in eating properly cooked poultry meat, according to the International Poultry Council.
The International Poultry Council, an organization comprised of poultry industry associations from more than 20 major poultry-producing countries around the world, is closely monitoring developments in China regarding the spread of this new strain of Type A H7N9 influenza. Numerous human cases have occurred and have resulted in at least 10 deaths, most of which occurred in people who were exposed to the virus by handling infected birds.
Thus far, Chinese authorities have worked diligently and vigorously to contain the spread of the virus, have closed live bird markets in Shanghai and in other affected areas, and have destroyed infected birds. Although Chinese officials have found no Type A H7N9 influenza infections in any commercial poultry farms or in poultry processing plants in China, the situation has caused many consumers in China to refrain from eating poultry products. This anxiety among consumers has cost the Chinese poultry industry millions of dollars in lost sales as a result.
The World Health Organization and leading influenza experts agree that proper cooking is the best defense against foodborne illnesses, including influenza. In fact, Dr. Michael O'Leary, who heads the World Health Organization's office in Beijing, said he eats chicken every day.
Cooking to an internal temperature of 74 degrees Celsius destroys any residual viruses that may in the meat. In other words, there is no risk of contracting influenza from eating properly cooked poultry meat.
Chinese consumers can be assured that all poultry products they get in the market, regardless of origin, can be eaten safely when they are properly cooked.
"The global poultry industry has been impressed with the growth in per capita poultry consumption in China, which is eclipsing pork," said International Poultry Council President Jim Sumner. "In fact, since 1990, China's per capita poultry consumption has increased nearly five-fold, to more than 10 kilograms."
Sumner also said that, while poultry consumption dipped during previous influenza occurrences in China, consumers quickly realized that properly cooked and prepared poultry meat is safe, and consumption rebounded.
He said that the reaction of consumers to previous incidents prompted the International Poultry Council to adopt the slogan: "Poultry is safe. Just cook it.!"