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I Eat a Lot of Chicken. How Worried Should I be About Bird Flu?


Question: I Eat a Lot of Chicken. How Worried Should I be About Bird Flu?
Will the spread of bird flu mean we have to forgo eating chicken? The U.S. Department of Agriculture says no.
Answer: So far there's no evidence that bird flu, or avian flu, can be spread through eating poultry. In any case, no chicken is being imported from countries with confirmed cases of bird flu, and all chicken imported to the U.S. must pass the same food-safety standards as domestic poultry. Even so, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as part of its "Is it Done Yet?" campaign, is recommending that all chicken be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees to ensure that all viruses and bacteria, including bird flu, are destroyed.

Boneless chicken breasts were thought to be safe to eat at 160 degrees, bone-in breasts at 170 degrees and whole chicken 180 degrees. I would still follow the old guidelines for bone-in breasts and whole chicken, although the USDA's recommendation of 165 degrees is supposed to apply to all chicken.

Finally, don't forget to practice safe food-handling techniques from the outset, to minimize the chance of contracting any foodborne illness, such as e.coli or salmonella poisoning. This means:

  • Good hand-washing, before, during and after preparation
  • Clean utensils
  • Separating raw foods from cooked
  • Keeping meat, fish and poultry, and their juices, away from other foods
  • Separate cutting boards for different kinds of food
  • Proper sanitization of cutting boards and equipment
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