HC Deb 20 May 2004 vol 421 cc1101-2W
Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the safety of imported chickens from South East Asia since the recent outbreaks of avian influenza; and if she will make a statement. [173681]

Mr. Bradshaw

Under EU rules, imports of live poultry are not permitted from any of the countries in Asia where highly pathogenic avian influenza has been confirmed. This was the case even before the disease outbreaks, as none of these countries had been approved by the European Commission to export live poultry to the EU. Similarly, with the exception of Thailand, imports of meat from the affected countries are not authorised.

The risk of the avian influenza virus spreading to other birds through meat is low. Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, the European Commission took action on 23 January to ban imports from Thailand of fresh and frozen poultry meat unless accompanied by certification confirming that it was from birds slaughtered before 1 January 2004. In addition, cooked poultry meat that had not been heat treated to at least 70°C, was also banned. The UK took immediate action to implement these measures in domestic law.

The Food Standards Agency advice is that eating chicken is not considered a risk to consumers. This is because the risk to people from Avian Influenza arises from close contact with live chickens that have the disease, and not through eating chicken.

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