Why American commercially produced eggs are safe to eat:
When chickens become sick with Avian Influenza, one of the first signs of illness is that they stop laying eggs. In High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), the more severe form of the virus, the illness is very sudden, egg production stops, and many of the birds will die from the disease.
In the United States, if HPAI should be identified within an American commercial flock, at the first sign of illness the farm would immediately be quarantined. If eggs are laid after the onset of illness (at most one or two eggs per hen) the eggs would most likely be of inferior quality and would not make it through the washing, grading and inspection process. The eggs would not even be sent to the packing plant since the farm would be under quarantine.
How do we know that cooking eggs thoroughly will inactivate the virus?
In an effort to confirm that pasteurized egg products are safe, researchers at the USDA Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (Swayne, Avian Pathology, 33(5), 512-518) artificially put avian influenza virus into egg products and treated the sample with typical pasteurization processes. The temperatures during pasteurization and cooking of eggs and egg products were found to be more than adequate to inactivate any virus particles. This further ensures that eggs and poultry meat are safe when handled and cooked properly.
How is the American commercial egg supply different from other
countries and how are American consumers protected?
A key difference between the countries in Asia which have been severely affected by this outbreak, and here in the US, are our production practices and confinement of poultry. Most consumers in the US have no contact with live poultry of any kind. In Asia, the practices are very different and poultry are free to roam villages. The isolation of poultry production, the enhanced biosecurity procedures, and the lack of contact with live poultry, are all practices that will protect the US from experiencing the same kind of outbreak of AI that we have seen in Asian countries. In addition, our American poultry processing, inspection, and distribution systems are designed to detect any problems immediately so that the affected products never reach US consumers. Commercial eggs are safe to eat and consumers should have no concerns about continuing to enjoy properly cooked eggs.