H5N1 avian flu: Answers to the top five consumer turkey concerns

Confirmation of an outbreak of H5N1 avian flu has prompted many consumers to question whether they should keep eating turkey.


So whether it’s customers on the telephone or friends in a local pub quizzing you on the outbreak, FWi has come up with answers to the top five questions to help you address their concerns.


Q Why should I continue eating turkey?


According to Dr Juliet Gray, consultant nutritionist: “Turkey is the ideal choice for low fat meals – whether quick snacks or main meals – because it is one of the lowest fat meats around.”


Q But can’t you catch H5N1 avian flu from eating turkey?


No – the Food Standards Agency stresses that properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat. “The science shows that the virus isn’t contracted by eating food – but almost all by close and prolonged contact with infected birds.”


Q So why is there so much fuss over the disease?


To poultry, it is a severe disease with high mortality rates. Left unchecked, it would lead to the deaths of many millions of birds every year.


Q Why are they offering vaccinations to poultry workers and not turkeys?


DEFRA policy is not to vaccinate poultry against avian flu at the present level of risk, because it claims currently available vaccines do not make vaccination effective or efficient as a disease control or prevention.


There is no vaccine available for people against the H5N1 virus. However, workers are being offered vaccinations against ordinary human flu as a precautionary measure to reduce the very small risk of the H5N1 virus mutating into a deadly form for people.


Q Will the slaughter of 6000 turkeys mean there will be shortages this Christmas?


No – The Christmas turkey market is thought to account for about 8-9 million frozen turkeys, almost exclusively from the main all year round producers. A further 1-2 million fresh turkeys are reared in the main by smaller, seasonal producers. So it’s only a small fraction of the total that has been slaughtered.


For more on avian flu, see: