5 types of food to avoid during avian flu outbreak

Aside from raw poultry and eggs, fried chicken and other popular dishes are also at high risk of transmitting bird flu

A girl eats a school lunch with fried chicken wings, vegetables, seaweed and tofu in Miaoli County,

A girl eats a school lunch with fried chicken wings, vegetables, seaweed and tofu in Miaoli County, (CNA photo)

Taipei (Taiwan News)—The spread of the highly pathogenic H5N6 avian flu in Taiwan has been alarming in the past, but evading consumption of five types of food can significantly lower chances of contacting the deadly disease, says a health expert from The John Tung Foundation (JTF).

Founded by John Tung (董之英) in 1984, the foundation has been a watch dog on serious health issues in Taiwan, including food hygiene, and nutritional balance.

  1. Avoid raw poultry at all costs

The bird flu virus has low heat tolerance, so cooking the poultry thoroughly can greatly reduce risks of ingesting the disease, said Hsu Hui-yu (許惠玉), head of the food nutrition section at JTF.

Regardless of the cooking method used, the poultry has to be thoroughly cooked to the point where uncooked blood is no longer present in the bones, and the meat is no longer bloody, she said.

People should avoid eating poultry dishes that might retain blood in the bones, such as fried chicken, drunken chicken and cold poached chicken (白斬雞).

  1. Raw or undercooked eggs

People that enjoy eggs cooked over easy for breakfast might have to break the habit and switch to scrambled eggs for awhile.

Hsu recommended people temporarily kick the habit of eating raw or undercooked eggs, and ensure eggs are well cooked as avian flu alert levels raise in Taiwan over the week.

It is actually easier for the human body to digest and absorb proteins from cooked eggs, said Hsu.

Eggs should be checked for cracks and washed with water before it is added as an ingredient to any dish. Breaking an egg should be handled with care to avoid the yolk or egg white from coming into contact with dirt, she added.

Egg dishes considered unsafe to eat include, eggs cooked over easy, eggs benedict, omelets, poached eggs, soft boiled eggs, and onsen tamago.

Cooked food mixed with raw eggs should also be avoided, such as Spaghetti Carbonara, the Japanese dish (chicken and egg rice bowl) Oyakodon, and Korean rice dish Bibimbap.

  1. Dressings and sauces that use raw eggs

Dressings with raw egg content should be kept away from the salad bowl, such as Thousand Islands, Caesar salad, and even mayonnaise. Foodies will also need to refrain adding raw eggs to shacha sauce, or dipping cooked Sukiyaki meat strips into raw eggs for a better taste.

  1. Certain desserts that contain raw eggs

Surprisingly, some popular desserts with undercooked egg ingredients are at risk of transmitting H5N6 virus, and should not be eaten in the short-term, such as tiramisu, mousses, soufflés, custard, Korean egg pancake, and shaved ice with raw egg on top.

  1. Beverages flavored with raw eggs

Certain Taiwanese beverages like honey egg juice contain raw egg content should not be imbibed, while certain drinks offer raw eggs as an additive option to enrich the flavor, such as soy bean milk, almond tea, and ginger tea. It is advised to stay away from the raw egg option.

Poultry and eggs should be placed in separate plastic bags or independent containers to avoid blood water from the raw meat contaminating other food in the refrigerator, said Hsu.

To further lower risks, the same knives and cutting boards should not be used to process cooked and raw foods, she added.