Experts probe bird flu link to Hungary

East Anglia's biggest poultry processor faced some tough questions tonight as the government said the strain of bird flu found at a farm in Suffolk may have been brought in via imports from Hungary.

East Anglia's biggest poultry processor faced some tough questions tonight as the government said the strain of bird flu found at a farm in Suffolk may have been brought in via imports from Hungary.

Less than a day after Bernard Matthews “absolutely ruled out” any link to the recent Hungarian outbreak, deputy chief vet Fred Landeg said the two viruses “may well be identical”.

The beleaguered company, which has a division in Sarvar, Hungary, has agreed to temporarily suspend the movement of poultry products between its outlets in the two countries.

Experts from Defra, the Food Standards Agency and the Health Protection Agency will now step up their investigation into the possible link.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain was found in Hungary in January.

Mr Landeg said a possible route of infection was from imported “poultry product”.

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A Defra statement said: “Defra, the Food Standards Agency and the Health Protection Agency are investigating the possibility of a link between the Hungarian outbreaks, poultry meat from Hungary and the introduction of disease in the farm in Suffolk.”

It added that the risk to human health remained negligible and properly cooked poultry was safe to eat.

The infection killed 2,500 turkeys in Holton, near Halesworth, last week before vets moved in to slaughter the remaining 160,000 birds at the site.