Several countries have banned imports of British poultry, after the discovery of a deadly strain of bird flu in a commercial farm in the English county of Suffolk. Among them are Ireland and Russia. France and Germany are considering similar action. Europe’s veterinary experts met all day to review safety procedures. They decided there was no need for extra measures at the Bernard Matthews farm but called on EU nations to keep poultry indoors in high-risk areas.
Scientists are concerned the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that easily passes to humans. The UK says it has stockpiled enough anti-viral drugs to cover a quarter of the population. But with the bird cull complete, Environment Secretary David Miliband was playing down concerns.
“The risk to the general public is judged by health experts to be negligible. In particular the Food Standards Agency advised that there is no risk to eating any properly cooked poultry including turkey and eggs,” he told parliament.
The UK government says veterinary experts are investigating the source of the infection, most likely to have come from wild birds.
But tests could take weeks and it is probable the source will never be known.
Meanwhile, British newspapers have speculated there may be a link between the flu outbreak in Hungary last month and the current one in the UK.
But the Hungarian subsidiary of the Bernard Matthews company, Saga Foods, has denied any connection with the farm affected by the virus.