Preparing for the arrival of bird flu, the government on Wednesday gave advice for making chicken safe to eat: Cook it to 165 degrees farenheit (74 Celsius).
While the government has always offered "doneness" advice, it has never before declared what it takes to kill viruses and bacteria that may lurk in poultry.
"It's not in response directly to avian influenza, or bird flu, but so many people right now are concerned about bird flu and will poultry be safe to eat," said Richard Raymond, the department's undersecretary for food safety.
"It's a wonderful time to educate everybody out there that there's lots of reasons to handle poultry properly and cook it to the right temperature," Raymond said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The government says the deadly strain of bird flu spreading throughout Asia, Africa and Europe is likely to arrive this year in the United States.
Human cases of bird flu have been rare, but authorities worry the virus could mutate into a form that would spread easily among people and cause a global epidemic.
The cooking recommendation came from a scientific advisory panel that said raw poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees (74 Celsius).
The department's "Is it Done Yet?" campaign provides a range of temperatures, including for chicken breasts and for whole birds.
Raymond said that's too confusing and from now on, the department will be sticking with a minimum of 160 degrees farenheit (71 Celsius) for all poultry.
"That's based on the best science available 165 degrees is more than adequate to kill all food pathogens found in poultry, including avian influenza," he said.
The department also strongly recommends that people use food thermometers and follow basic rules for kitchen safety: wash hands often, keep raw poultry and meat separate from cooked food and refrigerate or freeze food right away.
The primary target of the recommendation is not bird flu but salmonella, a bacteria that causes food poisoning and can be deadly unless infected people are treated promptly with antibiotics, reports AP.
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