Poultry meat imported from Hungary could be to blame for the avian flu outbreak in Suffolk, UK, last week, government officials are suggesting.

DEFRA, the Food Standards Agency and the Health Protection Agency are investigating the possibility of a link between the avian flu outbreak in Hungary and poultry meat brought to the UK from the same country.

Premiliminary scientific tests indicate the strain of the virus that caused both outbreaks may be identical.

The farm in Suffolk is owned by Bernard Matthews which also runs a food processing plant adjacent to the site where the turkeys infected with the H5N1 virus died.

It has voluntarily agreed temporarily to suspend the movement of poultry products between its outlets in the UK and Hungary until the investigation is complete.

The investigation will include examining arrangements at the plant. 

The government’s deputy chief vet, Fred Landeg said: “Our investigations have shown that one possible route of infection is poultry product imported from Hungary. It is important that this is investigated thoroughly, along with all the other possible routes.

“We are working in partnership with the Food Standards Agency and the Health Protection Agency to carry out a thorough investigation. We are also working in close contact with the Hungarian authorities and the European Commission.

Scientific advice remains that the risk to human health is negligible, and Food Standards Agency advice remains the same: That properly cooked poultry is safe to eat. 

“We are continuing to work closely with DEFRA and the FSA. Should any public health issues arise as part of these investigations we will of  course follow these up and carry out a full risk assessment to ensure the public are advised and protected,” HPA chief executive Pat Troop said.

Judith Hilton, head of microbiological safety at the FSA added: “Food Standards Agency advice has been and remains that avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.”

Bernard Matthews has acted quickly to reassure consumers that their products are safe to eat.

Links to:
FWi avian flu special UK report
FWi avian flu special global report