FSA News Item, 13 March 2006
The Agency held an Open Board Meeting in Glasgow on Thursday 9 March 2006 . The following is an extract from the report:
Dr Bell reminded Board Members that the Agency had advised consumers some time ago that avian flu did not pose a food-safety risk for UK consumers. The Agency had been asked to review that advice on the basis of the possibility that an outbreak of avian flu might occur in this country at some future date.
The Agency had discussed the issue with scientific experts, and concluded that the FSA's advice should remain the same as before; even if an outbreak did occur in the UK , the Agency continued to consider that avian flu did not pose a food safety risk.
He said: ‘Our general advice remains that poultry meat should always be cooked properly to avoid food poisoning, and that will destroy any flu virus. In the case of eggs, we feel that if eggs are cooked until the white is firm, that is sufficient to reduce the risk to a very low level, if it exists at all
He added that this was ‘because the normal route of infection of avian flu is respiratory and not through ingestion, and the experts tell us there are further safeguards, such as gastric juices and the lack of receptors in the gastro-intestinal tract for this particular virus, that would act as an additional barrier, should there even be small amounts of virus left in any of the products.'
Washing hands remained a very important piece of advice generally for handling of any poultry products, and it also would help to ensure that the virus was not spread.
There was currently no evidence that anybody has been infected by eating poultry products. Even in those countries where people had become infected, it had always been because of close proximity with sick, dying or recently dead birds. The Agency will, however, keep the matter very closely under review in case there is any change in the scientific information available.
The Chief Executive also emphasised that the Agency's role was to keep consumers informed about matters that might affect the safety of food, and was not to promote the sale or consumption of individual foods or food products.