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Avian Influenza

Volume 405: debated on Thursday 22 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will ban imports of cull day-old chicks from the Netherlands and Belgium; [113700](2) what steps she is taking to prevent the spread of avian influenza from continental Europe to the UK; [113699](3) if she will extend the import ban on live poultry and hatching eggs to include table eggs from the Netherlands and Belgium. [113701]

In order to prevent the spread of Avian Influenza (AI) from the European Union to the UK the Department has taken the following steps.In March 2003 Defra 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, hatching eggs and racing/show pigeons from the Netherlands and Belgium. These Declarations make it a criminal offence to import live poultry and hatching eggs into England from both the Netherlands and Belgium. A further Declaration was issued on 9 May 2003 prohibiting the import of live poultry and hatching eggs from the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also introduced similar measures.In normal circumstances, all birds (poultry or captive birds) entering the UK from the EU must be accompanied by an EU model health certificate stating that premises and area of origin are free from AI.The Government have also banned the import from the Netherlands, Belgium and from the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany of fresh, unprocessed and non-heat treated poultry manure and litter. EU legislation does not permit trade in fresh poultry meat if it was obtained from poultry originating in established surveillance zones in those countries.In addition, action was also taken on 16 May to ban the importation into the UK of cull day old chicks from the Netherlands, Belgium and from the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.Table eggs do not present a high risk of spread of disease. Any risk would be of mechanical transmission of virus on eggs, packaging or means of transport. Controls in force in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany provide good safeguards against this risk and a ban on imports would be disproportionate.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 EU. Should there be any significant changes, the risk assessment for the UK will be reviewed.Officials have reviewed and updated the Contingency Plan, are learning the lessons about the Dutch outbreak from the authorities there, and remain in close touch with the poultry industry about measures we would take should the disease appear here.