EU countdown to bird flu amendments continues

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Influenza Bernard matthews

The European poultry industry has just six weeks left to prepare
itself for new proposals designed to prevent the spread of H5N1
avian influenza into the food chain, the European Commission has

The EC expects the proposals, amended in February this year, to tighten restrictions furtheron processed and raw meats from member states in the event of an outbreak. The new measures, which will come into affect on 1 July this year, come in light of a number of scares throughout the bloc during the year, over the safety of poultry meat. As such, initial restrictions imposed on areas found to house infected poultry will be amended further, tightening movements on meat in and out of the region. Under earlier proposals, the EU directive called on officials to ensure the establishment of a 3 km quarantine zone around the infected area. This, according to the directive, must be backed up backed by a further 10 km surveillance zone in which animals must remain indoors and notmoved to any location other than the slaughterhouse. While the quarantine remains in place, the amendments stipulate that only meat products that were processed before the implementation of a control zone may be transported out of the restricted area. In addition to this, the meat must also be cut, stored and transported separately from other meats within a control zone. Finally poultry leaving a control zone must be sufficiently marked to EU standards in terms of origin. There must also bestrict bio security, including the cleansing and disinfection of meat transport before and after use. The amendments highlight the growing importanceof the poultry industry ensuring their products are safely sourced and processed in order to avoid declining public confidence in their goods. European poultry processors faced continuing outbreaks of the avian influenza virus during 2006 and 2007. This resulted in Bernard Matthews, one of the Bloc's largest processors of poultry, facing questions over its own safety practices. The group announced earlier in the year that outbreak of the H5N1 strain of the virus had been found in its UK operations at the Holton processing plant. The outbreak, linked to Turkey meat allegedly sourced from its Hungarian operations, caused uproar earlier this year with the group's profits falling accordingly. In February, Bernard Matthews laid off 120 workers at its turkey plant in the UK, owing to declining sales as concerns over the quality of its products hit home.

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