Can Avian Influenza Be Passed in Eggs? Back »

The Food & Drug Administration, which regulates shell eggs, states that the chances of infected poultry or eggs entering the food chain is extremely low.

Written by Lavonne Meyer (former SDSU Extension Food Safety Field Specialist).


Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several case of avian influenza (AI) in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways. More recently, there have been reports of AI in commercial flocks in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. AI is commonly called the “bird flu”.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates shell eggs, the chance of infected poultry or eggs entering the food chain would be extremely low1.

Several safeguards are in place with inspections and testing programs to prevent the chance of infected poultry or eggs from entering the food chain. Hens infected with AI usually stop laying eggs as one of the first signs of illness, and the few eggs that are laid by infected hens generally would not get through egg washing and grading because the shells are weak and misshapen. The flow of eggs from a facility is stopped at the first suspicion of an outbreak without waiting for a confirmed diagnosis. Because of this, eggs in the marketplace are unlikely to be contaminated with AI.

Safe Handling & Cooking: A fail-proof safeguard.

AI is not transmissible by eating poultry or eggs that have been properly prepared. Cooking poultry, eggs, and other poultry products to the proper temperature and preventing cross-contamination between raw and cooked food is the key to safety. You should follow the same handling practices that are recommended to prevent illness from common foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter2.

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw poultry and eggs.
  • Clean cutting boards and other utensils with soap and hot water to keep raw poultry and eggs from contaminating other foods.
  • Sanitize cutting boards by using a solution of 1 Tablespoon of chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water.
  • Cook poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165° F. 
  • Cook eggs until the yolks and whites are firm.  Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160° F. 
  • If preparing a recipe that calls for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served, use shell eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella by pasteurization or another approved method, or pasteurized egg products.

To summarize, Avian influenza cannot be transmitted through safely handled and properly cooked eggs, chicken or turkey. As a reminder, however, all eggs, chicken and turkey should be cooked thoroughly and at the recommended temperatures to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.

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References:

  1. What consumers Need to Know About Avian Influenza. Food and Drug Administration. 2006. Archived Content. Accessed on 5-7-15
  2. Ask Karen Web Portal. How do you handle and store eggs safely? 9/18/2014. Food Safety Inspection Service USDA. Accessed on 5-10-15.
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