Thousands of turkeys, geese and ducks were being slaughtered last night after bird flu was found at a farm in Norfolk.
Emergency protection zones were immediately set up around the site of the outbreak. If the disease spreads it is feared it could devastate the industry in the run-up to Christmas. Tests confirmed yesterday that a turkey at the farm in Redgrave near Diss had died from the H5 strain of bird flu. Further tests overnight are expected to reveal whether it had the especially dangerous H5N1 subtype which has killed millions of birds worldwide.
The farm is operated by Gressingham Foods, whose operations director Geoffrey Buchanan said: “We believe the outbreak has been contained and that the measures are in place to allow us to continue to serve our customers. Turkey meat continues to be safe to eat.” He said no Gressingham ducks - favored by chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Delia Smith and Gary Rhodes - were reared at the site. Neighboring farmers last night spoke of their fears that the disease could spread. Eddie Heggarty, who owns a poultry business in Pulham Market, said: “I’ve had to move all my birds indoors. We have only 60 for Christmas, but obviously it’s a worry.” The disease has struck a rearing unit where 5,000 turkeys, 1,000 ducks and 500 geese are being prepared for Christmas. Movement of live birds is restricted within a 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone. There are fears that the outbreak could exacerbate an expected shortage of turkeys for Christmas. Last week, the industry warned that soaring feed costs could add £5 to the shop price of a typical bird.
Dr Fred Landeg, the deputy chief vet, stressed that there was no risk to humans from eating poultry meat and eggs as long as they were cooked properly. He added: “It is very difficult to transmit avian influenza from birds to human beings. There has to be fairly close contact with the birds and with their faeces. We will be looking at the movements on to the premises and off the premises of birds and movements of people, vehicles and things, to see whether there is another origin somewhere in the country or whether the disease could have spread.”
The disease was discovered on Sunday by a vet who noticed that there had been a growing number of turkey deaths in one of the five sheds on the Norfolk farm. The European Union Commission has been kept informed about the situation, while all businesses on the British poultry register will be notified. (thisislondon.co.uk)