Safety and Cleanliness of Down and Feather Products

March 6, 2020

IDFL has updated its long-standing document on the safety and cleanliness of down and feathers in light of questions we have received about the avian flu and the coronavirus outbreak.

Can down and feather products transmit avian flu or other viruses?

No. Down and feather products have always been washed and sterilized in a high-pressure, high temperature washing and drying system. All organisms are destroyed in the process. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations have published statements and scientific papers showing the viruses and bacteria are inactivated or destroyed at high temperatures in the range of 60-70º C. There is no evidence whatsoever that points to down and feathers as a source for avian flu or other viruses including the coronavirus.

How does the washing and sterilization process work?

In the processing plant, down and feathers are washed to remove all impurities. During the drying process, down and feathers are sterilized at high pressure and high temperatures exceeding 100º C.

In Europe, down and feathers must be washed and steam-dried at high temperatures. (See European Commission Regulation (EU) No. 142/2011 25 Feb 2011, Charter VII, Section C) (See also “Terrestrial Animal Health Code” dated 20 July 2015).

In the USA, down processing plants, regardless of location, must receive a sterilization permit showing that down and feathers are steamed for 15 minutes or longer at temperatures exceeding 100º C.

In Asia, all down and feather processors comply with the European and USA regulations for sterilization.

How can we ensure that down products meet cleanliness requirements?

Finished products and imported bulk washed down must meet minimum requirements for cleanliness. IDFL verifies the safety and cleanliness of products as follows:

  1. Oxygen Number: This test determines the amount of foreign organic matter on the surface of the down and feathers. To qualify as “clean” the oxygen number must be less than 10.
  2. Turbidity: This test determines the amount of dust in down and feather products. Clean products must have a turbidity of greater than 300 mm.
  3. “Hypo-allergenic” and “Super-Clean” Claims: The generally accepted industry standards for such claims are: oxygen of 4.8 or less and turbidity of 500 mm or higher.
  4. Chinese Material: China is the largest source of down and feathers. China products normally have an oxygen number of less than 4.8 and a turbidity of 500-1000+ mm.

How do we register for sterilization permits within the USA?

All manufacturers and importers must register properly with government officials in 14 of the 50 USA states. Sterilization permits are required on both bedding and jacket/outerwear products sold in the USA. Please contact IDFL for information about the sterilization permit process.

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