The UK's food industry is badly prepared for bird flu compared with other countries, a leading insurance broker has claimed.
Avian flu may cause many countries to baton down the hatches, which could leave UK food manufacturers short on ingredients supplies, said insurance broker and risk management consultant Aon. British food companies have good business continuity plans for fires and floods, but they needed to prepare for a pandemic, it said.
"If there is a pandemic, most countries will lock their ports in order to contain it. The issue for UK food manufacturers is how to gain enough supplies," said Martin Dockrill, technical integrator at Aon.
UK processors were starting to ask their suppliers what they had done to prepare, but they didn't seem to be looking at the issue in the same way as other countries, said Dockrill. "Since Hurricane Katrina, US food manufacturers have woken up to the threat of a pandemic and it's a major issue in Asia; but UK manufacturers aren't treating it as a big problem."
Dockrill claimed that avian flu outbreaks were inevitable. "Avian flu will be in the bird population for years to come," he said. "You can't control the spread of disease through wild birds, except to put your birds inside. But this is expensive."
- The UK's latest avian flu outbreak in Suffolk appears to be contained. As Food Manufacture went to press, 68,000 birds were being slaughtered on a sixth poultry farm within the existing surveillance zone.