Concern as Japan bans British poultry

Defra working to facilitate trade

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IT IS hoped countries will not follow Japan's example and impose a blanket ban on British poultry following the mass cull of 50,000 birds after a bird flu outbreak in Norfolk.

Peter Bradnock, of the British Poultry Council, made the claim saying although Japan was a relatively small market for the UK, trade bans were not something the industry liked to see.

He said he understood why Hong Kong had banned exports of British Poultry because they sourced produce from Norfolk itself. However, he said he hoped other countries would put the situation into context before banning exports from the whole of the UK.

Bradnock said: "We would be concerned that other countries would follow suit but I think that there's really no reason why they would do it now there's no new cases being reported and there are no new cases in the pipeline."

The cull of 35,000 chickens at Witford Lodge Farm where the outbreak started, ended on Saturday and a further 15,000 birds were slaughtered on Sunday at nearby Norwich Road Farm and Mowles Poultry Unit at North Tuddenham after tests showed they also had the H7N3 strain.

Chief veterinary officer, Dr Debby Reynolds, said the current working hypothesis was that the infection on the farm could have occurred due to a breach of biosecurity and the most likely source of the virus being from another premises or from wild birds.

Restrictions to contain the spread of the virus are in operation in a 1km area around the affected sites and trading standards officials have offered fresh guidance to anybody travelling in the area. So far only one poultry worker has contracted the H7 strain of bird flu in the form of conjunctivitis and three others have tested negative for the disease.

Dr Jonathan Van Tam, a flu expert at the Health Protection Agency, said the threat to human health posed by the H7 avian influenza remained very low despite the recent developments in Norfolk.

"It is important to remember that H7 avian flu remains largely a disease of birds," he said.

Bradnock said Defra was keeping international traders in touch with the exporting companies.

"While there are issues they (Defra) are working to try and facilitate the trade - we are happy with the work they are doing."

He hoped Defra would encourage the countries who had imposed a ban on British poultry to lift them and dissuade others contemplating a ban.

Bradnock said: "We are talking about a low pathogenic strain - it shouldn't be a disruption to trade...we would like these countries to recognise the situation on the ground."

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