Bernard Matthews to get £600,000 compensation

Bernard Matthews is to receive nearly £600,000 in compensation for the 160,000 turkeys that were slaughtered after an outbreak of avian influenza (AI) in Suffolk in February.

Defra today published the final epidemiology report into the outbreak, which concludes the most likely source of infection is meat imported from Hungary although there is no definitive proof of this.

The report sets out the findings of the National Emergency Epidemiology Group, which has been investigating the outbreak in close consultation with the European Commission and the Hungarian authorities.

The final report is a detailed analysis of all possible ways the virus could have arrived at the farm in Holton, Suffolk. It concludes that infected meat could have originated from an infected flock in Hungary that were not yet showing any signs of the virus, that might have been infected from the wild bird source that also infected two goose farms in Hungary.

The investigation found no evidence that Hungarian farms had hidden the fact turkeys were infected.

Chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds said: "The epidemiology investigation is an important part of increasing our understanding of AI. Most potential routes of infection are controlled through current procedures. However, the outbreak in Suffolk appears to be the outcome of a series of normally low probability events and circumstances which cumulatively led to the introduction of disease.

"This report illustrates the importance of effective biosecurity for all food business operators, as there is a continuous low level risk of introduction of avian influenza to the UK."

Defra has confirmed that Bernard Matthews will receive reimbursement of £589,356.89 for the clinically healthy birds compulsorily killed to prevent disease spread, as required by the Animal Health Act 1981. Defra said payments act as an incentive to report disease early.

Minister for animal health Ben Bradshaw said: "I would like to thank all those who have worked so hard to provide such a comprehensive report. I would also like to thank the Hungarian authorities for their co-operation and all of those who did such a brilliant job of containing and eradicating the outbreak in Suffolk.

"Although we cannot be sure how the outbreak happened, this episode reflects the need for constant vigilance, high levels of biosecurity and robust and well developed contingency planning in dealing with animal disease outbreaks."

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