PENNSYLVANIA — As avian influenza continues to ravage poultry farms and populations of both wild and domestic birds around Pennsylvania, officials sought to assuage concerns by the public over both food safety and security.
Eggs and other poultry products out of the state remain safe to eat, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said.
“While we’re very concerned about the threat this avian influenza outbreak is to Pennsylvania’s $7.1 billion poultry industry, food safety and availability is not something to worry about,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a statement. “We encourage everyone in Pennsylvania to move forward with normal buying, cooking, and eating habits.”
Officials say the chances of infected chicken entering the food chain are “extremely low” because food facilities test for the virus so frequently. Poultry products are further inspected for disease several times on the way from the farm to the store.
Statewide, the virus has thus far impacted three separate commercial flocks. It has not yet hit any backyard flocks.
In Lancaster County alone, more than 3.4 million birds have been impacted.
The highly contagious and fatal disease hits domestic poultry the hardest. Impacted species include chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, quail, pheasants, emus and ostriches. Wild species also can pick up the flu, as the flu was first detected in the state in a wild bald eagle in East Marlborough, Chester County, in March.
Pennsylvania’s $7.1 billion poultry industry supports 26,200 jobs, placing the state fourth nationally for poultry production and first overall in organic poultry and egg sales.