Bird flu threat won’t affect busy Christmas supply

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

Bird flu threat won't affect Christmas poultry supplies (Flickr/Kevin T. Quinn)
Bird flu threat won't affect Christmas poultry supplies (Flickr/Kevin T. Quinn)

Related tags Influenza Avian influenza Bird

Poultry producers have insisted that supplies for the busy Christmas period won’t be affected by the government warning of a potential UK bird flu outbreak.

The continental outbreak of avian (bird) flu H5N8 prompted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to declare a prevention zone – where poultry producers are ordered to keep their birds indoors for 30 days – on Tuesday (December 6). But, poultry firms 2 Sisters Food Group and Bernard Matthews told that it won’t impact supply over the festive period.

A 2 Sisters spokesman said: “This is just a precautionary measure, affecting outdoor ​[free-range and organic] birds only. ​[It won’t] have any impact on supply.”

‘Business as usual’

Turkey producer Bernard Matthews claimed it wasn’t anticipating any problems with supply for Christmas.

A Bernard Matthews spokesman said: “We foresee no problems at this stage and it’s business as usual.”

The avian flu virus hasn’t been detected in the UK this year – despite being identified in eight European countries since the end of October. But, the prevention zone declaration​ was praised by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which also said it wouldn’t have any impact on Christmas supplies.

A BRC spokeswoman said: “The 30-day prevention zone declaration is a sensible precautionary measure, and has no impact on supplies, particularly as free-range status is maintained.”

Large-scale flocks

Producers with large-scale flocks were most at risk from bird flu, claimed the chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens. Once avian flu is detected in a flock – whatever its size – all the birds must be slaughtered, he said.

“Even when birds are housed, a risk of infection remains so this must be coupled with good biosecurity,”​ Gibbens said. “For example, disinfecting clothing and equipment, reducing poultry movement and minimising contact between poultry and wild birds.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish government also declared a 30-day prevention zone, in response to the avian flu threat.

Bird flu threat – at a glance

  • Avian flu H5N8 found in eight European countries since the end of October
  • Migratory birds could bring virus to the UK
  • DEFRA issued 30-day prevention zone in response

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