EFSA publishes scientific report on avian influenza and food safety

Whilst avian influenza (AI) is recognised to be an infectious disease primarily affecting birds, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is continuously evaluating scientific evidence with respect to AI and food safety. In this context, EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) has today published a Scientific Report on “Food as a possible source of infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses for humans and other mammals”. This comprehensive scientific document analyses whether consuming food contaminated with highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) virus could initiate infection in mammals via the digestive route. The paper examines in detail existing data on AI, and H5N1 in particular, studying various aspects of the virus’s transmission in relation to food and the gastrointestinal tract.

The report concurs with EFSA’s previously published advice on avian influenza in relation to food safety which said that:

“On present evidence, humans who have acquired the infection have been in direct contact with infected live or dead birds. There is no epidemiological evidence to date that avian influenza can be transmitted to humans through consumption of food, notably poultry and eggs. EFSA and other organisations such as the WHO generally support longstanding food safety advice that chicken and eggs be properly cooked in order to protect consumers from possible risks of food poisoning. Thoroughly cooking poultry meat and eggs also eliminates viruses, thereby providing further safety assurance in the unlikely event that H5N1 virus be present in raw poultry products entering the food chain.”

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