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Poultry and Risks

In all countries of the world, people have direct or indirect contact with poultry. In developing countries this contact can be quite intensive and direct in backyard and small commercial poultry production systems. Certain cultural habits, such as purchasing live birds at local markets and slaughtering at home, also involve moments of intensive contact. Even people who have no contact with live birds may have direct contact with their products, through the consumption of poultry meat and eggs.


Unfortunately, there are risks to human health related to this contact. These risks can be controlled, but this requires that they be accurately and carefully assessed. Information about this topic is available from this website, through links to information notes on specific subjects.


The risks to human health can be roughly divided into:

1) risks from contact with live birds;

2) risks from consumption of poultry products.


Live birds infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI, or bird flu) can infect humans. However, this threat to humans can be diminished through control methods and risk-based surveillance.

The consumption of contaminated poultry products can cause food poisoning in humans. The main causes of human intestinal infections from this source are bacteria, principally Salmonella and Campylobacter. These risks from consumption of poultry meat and eggs can easily be controlled and are totally preventable. Birds that are produced locally in backyard semi-scavenging systems and are cooked and consumed directly after slaughter are considered to be relatively safe.


In systems where poultry production, slaughtering/processing and consumption occur at different stages and locations, contamination with bacteria should be well controlled and avoided, and control systems should prevent further risks. Control systems will also prevent risks to human health from antibiotic residues and/or antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in poultry products.