Chicken is safe to eat, despite an outbreak of salmonella on eight poultry farms, the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer with the Department of Agriculture has said.

A cull of flocks at the farms has begun and the department is investigating the farms to identify the source of the infections, which were found in chickens destined for human consumption.

Salmonella is a bacteria that is considered a risk to public health, however detection of the disease means all birds on the eight farms will be culled and none will enter the food chain.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr June Fanning said there is "nothing to be concerned about" and urged people to practice good kitchen hygiene.

"There are intensified controls in place and even the routine controls are there to prevent any infected birds entering the food chain," she said.

"There's nothing to be concerned about ... in the kitchen, the most important thing is that you don't have the risk of cross-contamination between raw and cooked products.

"It's your basic kitchen hygiene - washing your hands, don't wet or wash raw chicken, use different utensils. Cooking does kill the bacteria."

Dr Fanning said there is a national salmonella control programme in place and no broilers are allowed to go to the factory without having been tested for salmonella.

She said there are a number of different ways salmonella or other bugs can enter a flock, such as infected wild birds, contaminated equipment or rodents.

Biosecurity is the main defence, she said, adding that Ireland's poultry producers "are very good" at maintaining that.

She described the situation as "devastating" for the farmers involved and said the affected premises will need to be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and swabbed.

She also said there is no link between the salmonella outbreak and bird flu.

What is salmonella and how do you avoid it?