Statement in response to the USDA’s alert regarding avian flu outbreaks in the United States

The USDA has noted that there have been some isolated outbreaks of avian flu in three western states.  The American Down and Feather Council (ADFC) has consistently cited proof that the avian flu virus cannot survive in down and feathers that have been properly washed and processed. Consequently, there is no risk of contamination to down and feather products.

Furthermore, it should be noted that the outbreaks occurred in small, “backyard” flocks, not in the controlled and sanitary farms where down and feather manufacturers purchase their down and feather for bedding, outerwear, and furniture products.

FACTS:

  • The avian flu virus is a class of the influenza virus and is susceptible to heat, dryness, and chemical disinfectants. If any virus (avian flu or other) did exist in raw down and feather, the washing, sterilizing, and drying procedures are more than sufficient to destroy it.
  • Down is first washed with a detergent to remove all dust, dirt, and organic matter. After the down is washed, it is steamed at 120/-130/C for 30 minutes.
  • The avian flu virus can survive only 2-3 minutes at 56/C as reported by Branson W. Ritchie in his book Avian Viruses: Function and Control. Therefore, the washing and steaming process for down and feathers far exceeds the minimum requirements to kill the avian flu virus.
  • Marilu Lingad of the World Health Organization (WHO) states: “Based on the conditions mentioned (30 minutes at 130/C), the virus would be killed. Thus, feather pillows and cushions subjected to these conditions would be safe.”
  • Companies processing down for use in the USA must have a sterilization permit. This permit is only issued after receiving government approval from the State of Pennsylvania. This approval comes only after an on-site plant inspection. Inspectors ensure down and feathers are sanitized correctly and that proper procedures are followed to avoid cross-contamination.
  • All down products that have “STERILIZED” on the USA law tag label use down that has been processed using the above procedure, and are therefore safe.