Supermarkets report poultry sales dip

Sales of poultry products at Britain's biggest supermarket Tesco have dropped since the bird flu outbreak, the store chain said today.A Tesco spokesman described the drop as “slight” and said it could be down to other factors, such as cold weather.

Sales of poultry products at Britain's biggest supermarket Tesco have dropped since the bird flu outbreak, the store chain said yesterday.

A Tesco spokesman described the drop as “slight” and said it could be down to other factors, such as cold weather.

“We're closely monitoring buying behaviour but we haven't seen a huge drop. There has been a slight drop - we're talking a single figure percentage - but it could be down to all sorts of things,” she said.

“We have seen movement into other protein products, such as beef. It could be down to the cold weather, and people wanting a roast rather than chicken, for example.”

She added: “We work very hard with our suppliers to ensure the highest standards of biosecurity are maintained at all times and we have contingency plans in place should our supply chain become affected.

“Customers should not worry - Tesco poultry and egg products are safe. The disease can, in any event, only be spread through direct contact with birds, and not through poultry products.”

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But the remaining big four supermarkets - Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury's - reported no change in sales of turkey, chicken or eggs since the news broke, and the National Farmers' Union urged shoppers to keep buying British poultry.

Bernard Matthews' turkey products were still on sale at all the supermarkets yesterday, including the Morrison's store in Wherry Road, Norwich, and Sainsbury's in Queens Road, Norwich.

An Asda spokesman said: “It's business as usual. There's been no impact on sales across the whole poultry sector, including Bernard Matthews' products.”

The company added that it did not buy in any stock from the affected farm.

A Sainsbury's spokesman said the chain's sales of poultry and eggs were unchanged.

"I think consumers are getting a bit more savvy and a bit wiser to the fact that this isn't a food safety issue,” she said.

Morrisons also said poultry and egg sales had been unchanged since the bird flu outbreak.

“Everything has been normal. It has not dropped at all,” said a spokesman.

Charles Bourns, chairman of the NFU's poultry board, said farmers were worried about the potential impact on sales.

He urged shoppers: "Just keep eating chicken and enjoying it. There is no danger from it. This is a disease of chickens and not of humans. Just carry on eating it as per normal.'

The Food Standards Agency today repeated its official advice to consumers to wash their hands after handling raw poultry meat and eggs.

The food watchdog says poultry and eggs should always be cooked properly to avoid food poisoning.

Poultry should be cooked until the juices run clear and eggs should be cooked until the whites are solid.

Both raw eggs and dishes containing raw eggs should be avoided, according to the Food Standards Agency.

The FSA says World Health Organisation advice to cook eggs until their yolks are hard does not apply in the UK.

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