DEFRA unsuccessful in locating source in Bernard Matthews H5N1 outbreak

DEFRA has not found a specific, proven source for the H5N1 avian flu outbreak on a Bernard Matthews’ turkey unit in February, according to its final epidemiology report published today.

Since the outbreak, the National Emergency Epidemiology Group (NEEG) has worked alongside the European Commission and the Hungarian Authorities to locate the source for the outbreak in Holton, Suffolk – but it has been unsuccessful.  

The NEEG concluded in its report that the most plausible route of infection was via turkey imports from Hungary, with the meat originating from a sub-clinically infected turkey flock which was infected via a wild bird source.  

Bernard Matthews will now be reimbursed with £589,356.89 for the clinically healthy birds that were compulsorily slaughtered during the outbreak. 

Peter Ainsworth, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “As with Foot and Mouth, the Government has once again failed to establish the cause of the outbreak of a serious animal disease.
“The fact that the Government cannot ascertain precisely how bird flu got to Suffolk must surely be a case for looking again at the adequacy of existing regulations dealing with imports of poultry meat.
“Bearing in mind that there must have been a serious failure of bio-security at the Bernard Matthews’ plant, many people will be absolutely astonished that no one will be held responsible for the outbreak.  Instead the company will receive £589,356.89 in compensation funded by the taxpayer.”

DEFRA is currently working with industry to establish an animal disease levy to balance what the taxpayer and industry pay for animal health and disease outbreaks.

In addition, the Food Standards Agency confirmed that the Bernard Matthews cutting plant will not face prosecution