Bird Flu outbreak at Bernard Matthews farm

By John Wood

- Last updated on GMT

Restrictions have been imposed at a Bernard Matthews’ poultry farm in Suffolk after the discovery of bird flu
Restrictions have been imposed at a Bernard Matthews’ poultry farm in Suffolk after the discovery of bird flu

Related tags: Bernard matthews, Influenza, Avian influenza

Restrictions have been imposed on movements in and out of a Bernard Matthews poultry farm after a strain of bird flu was detected.

Tests by officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have returned negative results for the H5 and H7 forms of bird flu, which can be transmitted to humans.

However, they ordered restrictions on the premises in Suffolk to be put in place while more tests were carried out.

In 2007 Bernard Matthews was involved in an outbreak of the potentially deadly H5N1 strain.

Spread quickly

A DEFRA spokeswoman said: “It’s a different strain from before. Tests that have been carried out on the premises have ruled out H5 or H7 – these are the ones that have the potential to spread quickly.

“Tests are on-going so we aren’t certain what strain this is. We believe that the strain is a low risk to public health. The premises remain under restrictions pending further tests.”

A Bernard Matthews spokesman said: “Bernard Matthews can confirm that some of the birds at one of the business’s farms showed signs of ill health over the weekend.

“The company felt it was appropriate to report this to DEFRA. Its officials have detected the presence of an avian influenza virus, but not the virulent H5 or H7 form. Some restrictions are in place as a precaution, but are expected to be lifted in the next few days.”

‘Very much contained’

The affected site, at Ubbeston in Suffolk, is a breeder farm with about 5,000 birds that have not yet begun to lay eggs. The Bernard Matthews spokesman added: “It is very much contained to that farm.”

Officials said that at this stage the birds affected by the outbreak did not need to be culled nor removed from the food supply chain. During the outbreak in 2007, a total of 159,000 turkeys were culled.

After the 2007 outbreak, Bernard Matthews was criticised by DEFRA for a series of failings in relation to hygiene, such as scraps of meat being left in uncovered waste bins, and holes in the turkey sheds allowing mice and rats to get in.

However, the Food Standards Agency concluded there was insufficient evidence that the food manufacturer had breached hygiene laws.

Related topics: Food Safety

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