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Avian Influenza

Volume 401: debated on Thursday 20 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to protect the British poultry industry from avian influenza. [102372]

In order to protect the British poultry industry from avian influenza (AI) the Department has taken the following steps.On 21 February 2003 and 3 March 2003 Defra and the Devolved Administrations issued Declarations under Regulation 27 of the Animals and Animal Products (Import and Export) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 (and equivalent legislation in the devolved territories) introducing a ban on the import of live poultry and hatching eggs into the UK from Hong Kong and the Netherlands respectively following outbreaks of avian influenza in these countries. These Declarations make it a criminal offence to import live poultry and hatching eggs into the UK from both Hong Kong and the Netherlands. Following a suspicion of AI in Belgium, a further Declaration was issued on 12 March 2003 prohibiting the import of live poultry and hatching eggs from Belgium.In addition to the above, on 14 March 2003 Defra also banned the import of racing/show pigeons into England from the Netherlands and Belgium under domestic legislation due to the disease risk they presented. Similar Declarations are being introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.In normal circumstances, all birds (poultry or captive birds) entering the UK must be accompanied by an EU model health certificate stating that premises and area of origin are free from AI. In addition, captive bird imports into the UK from Third Countries are subject to a 30 days quarantine during which birds must be laboratory tested for avian influenza.Defra has reminded egg and poultry producers in the UK about the need for stringent biosecurity measures at all times. To minimise the introduction of AI into their flocks by means of faecal contamination, poultry producers should ensure that their boots, clothing, equipment and vehicles are disinfected. Access by wild birds should be minimised, for instance by clearing up feed spillages. Officials have asked poultry producers in the UK to be vigilant for any signs of respiratory disease in birds and contact their local veterinary office immediately if they have any concerns.The Department is monitoring the AI situation in the Netherlands and Belgium, and should there be any significant change the risk assessment for the UK will be reviewed.