In light of the recent detections of avian influenza (AI) in the United States, Peco Foods, Inc would like to assure our partners and consumers that detailed response plans are in place for preventing introduction and controlling the spread of the virus within our company.
Peco Foods participates in, and adheres to, the current National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) surveillance program for H5/H7 Avian Influenza. This program is designed to provide rapid detection of Highly Pathogenic strains of avian influenza in all domestic poultry populations. By our participation, Peco Foods is stating that chicken offered for consumption originates from flocks that have tested negative for H5 and H7 strains of Avian Influenza prior to slaughter.
Even though we participate in the NPIS testing to provide negative tested flocks to our processing facilities and have specific biosecurity plans to control any introduction within our farms. We understand "Bird Flu" is a scary topic. Much of what can be heard in media reports is confusing, misleading, or hard to understand so we have taken this opportunity to provide as follows a compiled list of facts about Peco Foods and Avian Influenza.
- None of birds from the affected flocks are viable for sale and have not entered the food chain. Poultry products purchased in the U.S. are safe for consumption.
- Avian Influenza, or "bird flu", is a respiratory disease that is caused by a virus. There are two forms of this virus, Low Pathogenic or LPAI and High Pathogenic or HPAI.
- LPAI is a mild form of the virus and is found occasionally around the world. HPAI is known as "high-pathogenic" because it is more harmful to the bird and results in high mortality rates.
- Though two different strains of the AI virus have been detected in the US to date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have confirmed there is no immediate public health concern with either of these avian influenza viruses. Both H5N2 and H5N8 viruses have been found in other parts of the world and have not caused any human infection to date.
- The HPAI H5N8 virus originated in Asia and spread rapidly along wild bird migratory pathways during 2014, including the Pacific flyway. In the Pacific flyway, the HPAI H5N8 virus has mixed with North American avian influenza viruses, creating new mixed-origin viruses. USDA has identified two mixed-origin viruses in the Pacific Flyway: the HPAI H5N2 virus and new HPAI H5N1 virus. The new HPAI H5N1 virus is not the same virus as the HPAI H5N1 virus found in Asia, Europe and Africa that has caused some human illness. Only the HPAI H5N2 virus has been detected in the Pacific, Mississippi and Central Flyways.
- At this time only H5 and H7 strains of the virus, in addition to any highly pathogenic strains, are considered under the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) rules as notifiable. H5 and H7 strains are the only types currently known to be capable of mutating from the low pathogenic to the high pathogenic form that can lead to widespread mortality in live poultry.
- The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world.
- The U.S. poultry industry avian influenza testing and detection program is administered by the federal National Poultry Improvement Plan, in addition to each state's individual response plan.
- The policy of the poultry industry and the government is to eradicate the disease as quickly as possible by destroying any flocks in which the H5 or H7 types of virus are found. The animals are all destroyed and disposed of through environmentally sound methods.
- Poultry farmers maintain strict biosecurity measures year-round, keep their flocks protected from wild birds and routinely test flocks for avian influenza.
- The network of state and federal agencies, working in conjunction with the poultry industry, executes procedures to quarantine any affected flock and reduce the impact of these instances.
- To date, the vast majority of the detections have been in turkey and table egg-laying hen flocks, not chicken broiler flocks raised for meat.
- No chickens raised or slaughtered in China are eligible for export to the United States, even if they are further processed. The United States is not importing any chicken from China at this time.
- There are no cases in which human infection is believed to have resulted from handling poultry broiler meat.
- The modern type of animal production used in the United States is actually more protective of birds and their health than more traditional systems. In the United States, chickens and turkeys are usually raised in enclosed buildings called grow-out houses. The health of the poultry flocks today is probably better than it has ever been. This is because of improvements in poultry housing, selective breeding for disease resistance, protection from potential disease carriers such as wild birds and other environmental sources and continuous health oversight by poultry veterinarians.
- All broiler flocks grown, processed and distributed by Peco Foods, Inc. originated from poultry located in the states of Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi.
- Peco Foods has not purchased raw Ready-to-Cook poultry products or raised broilers have been sourced from zones in the United States that have reported H5 or H7 cases of Avian Influenza.
- Any flocks that are found to be positive for the H5 or H7 strain of AI on pre-slaughter surveillance will result in the immediate notifications to the regulatory authority and proper measures taken to ensure the safety of our consumers and the domestic poultry industry.
- Although avian influenza A viruses usually do not infect humans, rare cases of human infection with these viruses have been reported. Most human infections with avian influenza A viruses have occurred following direct or close contact with infected poultry.
We believe that our participation in programs such as NPIP, providing proper information, implementing sound practices for handling of our broiler birds and robust biosecurity measures already implemented, establish effective barriers to protect our consumers and ensure a wholesome food supply. However it is important to remember that:
- No chickens or turkeys known or suspected to be infected with avian influenza are processed for sale as raw meat in the United States.
- Washing the hands after handling raw poultry is always a good precaution, but consumers in the United States have virtually no chance of encountering meat from a chicken or turkey infected with avian influenza.
- The proper handling and cooking of poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F kills all bacteria and viruses.