Poultry imports ban call

Poultry farmers are calling for a ban on imported meat in the wake of concerns that bird flu might have arrived in the UK on turkey carcasses.In the week since the deadly H5N1 strain was confirmed on a Bernard Matthews farm at Holton, near Halesworth, attention has focused on the source of the outbreak.

Poultry farmers are calling for a ban on imported meat in the wake of concerns that bird flu might have arrived in the UK on turkey carcasses.

In the week since the deadly H5N1 strain was confirmed on a Bernard Matthews farm at Holton, near Halesworth, attention has focused on the source of the outbreak.

Professor Sir David King, the government's chief scientist, said yesterday that the “most likely scenario” was that the virus was brought into the UK by poultry meat from Hungary.

Now the National Farmers Union (NFU) has called for all poultry imports to stop at least until the cause of the UK outbreak has been established.

Charles Bourns, chairman of the poultry board of the NFU said he was not “trying to scaremonger”.

“All we are saying is that if you have H5N1 in a country then obviously, if it has come in from Hungary this time, then the measures that are being taken to prevent the disease entering the UK have broken down somewhere,” he said.

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“Therefore maybe the easiest way out of this situation would be to stop the importation of raw poultry meat from any country with H5N1 until the Government has worked out how it got here.

“I am not keen to have any imported meats but if we are to have them, let's have them in a form which is 110pc safe,” he added. “I am just saying that logically we must stop this disease from spreading.”

Nigel Joice, a poultry farmer from Norfolk, echoed the call this morning.

“I would welcome a total ban on imports,” he said. “In the light of the last week, if consumers are looking for food safety, then buying British is the name of the game.

“If it's British, it could be monitored much more closely and would add to the public confidence in food safety,” he added.

Mr Joice said British farmers could meet demand for poultry without much difficulty.