Following an outbreak of the Avian Influenza flu, commonly known as the Bird Flu, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued a set of guidelines on the safe handling, processing and consumption of poultry, meat and eggs during this outbreak.
While six states- Kerala, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Punjab have reported the avian flu in poultry, ten states- Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan and Punjab have also reported avian influenza in crows, wild birds, and migratory birds.
Due to the ongoing bird flu pandemic, there has been an increase in citizens not purchasing eggs and meat and floating of rumours which request that these items should be avoided. The World Health Organisation says that there is no epidemiological data which suggests that the disease can be transmitted to humans through cooked food (even if the bird was contaminated with the virus before cooking)
The FSSAI has listed out guidelines and safety protocols for meat retail shops as well as consumers which state that they should be handled with safety precautions and consumed only after cooking.
Guidelines for handling of poultry, eggs and meat
1. The meat handlers are expected to wear PPE kits, gloves and masks while handling poultry and also avoid bird droppings.
2. Meat sellers should avoid purchasing meat from the areas affected by avian influenza.
3. Follow hand hygiene, as well as sanitisation of utensils and surfaces before and after use.
4. Avoid washing eggs in running water as the surface contamination could spread. The FSSAI advocates dipping the eggs in clean portable water or wipe with clean wet tissue or cloth.
5. Avoid leaving raw meat out in the open.
6. Buy meat and eggs from trusted sources in areas not affected by the influenza
Guidelines for cooking and consuming
1. The virus is inactivated in t 0.28 to 0.5 s at 70 °C or 0.041 to 0.073 s at 73.9 °C). Proper cooking at temperatures at 74 ° will inactivate or kill the virus, thus making eggs and meat safe for consumption.
2. Avoiding runny, half-boiled, and under-cooked food.
3. Cooked meat should not be placed in the same utensils as raw meat as there could be traces of the virus left on them.
Along with these guidelines, the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying has also published a revised action plan to tackle this ongoing bird pandemic. Strengthening surveillance, improving logistics for containment and culling, compensating farmers whose animals will be culled to control the spread, focusing on the safety of the animal handlers by creating precautionary protocols, as well as restocking birds in the culled areas are some of the steps the action plan intends to follow.
This action plan that was drafted in 2005, has been revised in 2006, 2012, and 2015.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in January 2020, similar guidelines were issued after people believed that COVID-19 could transmit through poultry. However, till date there has been no concrete proof stating that coronavirus spreads through the birds.
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