As well as multiple cases of Avian influenza strain H5N8 being found in both wild and farmed birds in Great Britain over the past few months, last week a case was confirmed in a swan in Northern Ireland, marking the first incident there.
Since early December, poultry owners throughout the UK have been told to keep their chickens, ducks and geese indoors to avoid contact with wild birds; and owners of commercial poultry flocks have been urged to increase their biosecurity measures.
In January, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that the restrictions would continue in England until 28 February and similar restrictions are in place in Scotland and Wales. The measures have led to calls from UK farmers for EU officials to extend their free range egg status if the order continues.
The outbreaks in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland follow a number of cases in Europe in recent months. Countries affected include Germany, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Greece and Portugal with Belgium the latest country to find the virus.
While Avian influenza is a contagious disease that can spread quickly, often proving fatal to infected birds, Public Health England advises that the risk to public health is very low. The Food Standards Agency is also clear that bird flu is not a food safety risk for UK consumers. “The risk of getting bird flu through the food chain is very low,” it said. “Some strains of avian influenza can pass to humans, but this is very rare. It usually requires close contact between the human and infected live birds.”
However, in countries like China were human contact with poultry is common, there have been reports of further H7N9 bird flu subtype infections. In early February, two men from Hubei province were hospitalised and reported to be in a critical condition. The country saw an unusually early spike in infections in December which carried on into January with at least 230 cases.
Being vigilant and having the necessary processes and documentation in place is important but the risk of this escalating only raises the bar in making sure the defences for your business are in place. A big part of those defences are making sure your recall procedures and your supply chain audits are up to date and in place. The Authenticate IS platform can help you achieve this ,save you time and costs.
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