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Defra under pressure over meat imports

by 5m Editor
16 February 2007, at 8:27am

UK - Defra was under pressure to push for tighter restrictions on meat imports this week after being told infected poultry from Hungary was almost certainly the source of the UK’s bird flu outbreak.

Government vets said on Tuesday that tests had shown a 99.96 per cent similarity between the virus strain found at Bernard Matthews farm in Suffolk and the one from a recent Hungarian outbreak.

Defra Ministers had originally played down the likelihood of infected meat imports and said wild birds were the most likely source of the infection.

But officials from the Veterinary Laboratory Agency said this week they believed the virus had ‘most likely’ been transmitted through infected poultry.

The NFU said it was evident that UK farmers were once again suffering as a result of inadequate restrictions on imported meat.

“We resent the continued importation of diseases into this country,” said NFU poultry board chairman Charles Bournes.

“If Defra wants disease cost sharing then it’s going to have to do more to protect us.”

He said a bigger surveillance zone around the Hungary outbreak could have prevented infected poultry being exported to the UK.

However, both the EU and Hungary deny the UK’s claims. Hungarian officials said there was ‘no evidence’ of a link between the UK outbreak and contaminated poultry meat from their country.

The European Commission agreed and said the Hungarian authorities had denied the possibility that infected meat from restricted zones in south east Hungary had been sent to Bernard Matthews’ plants in other parts of Hungary.

“No animals were sent to either slaughter house from the restricted zones since November 2006,” said EU health spokesman Philip Tod. He added that rather than through infected meat, the virus could have been transmitted into the UK through vehicles, manure, human contact with either feathers or birds and unlicensed trade.

While UK officials remain adamant about the source, they are still uncertain how the strain of bird flu could have got into the UK.

Source: Farmers Guardian

5m Editor