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Bird flu not affecting trade

13 April 2006

The arrival of avian flu in Britain has so far failed to impact on the country's catering and hospitality trade.

Investigations by Caterer revealed that neither the restaurant trade nor poultry suppliers said they had felt any discernible impact on demand for chicken or other birds.

Chief executive of the British Poultry Council Peter Bradnock said the sector was "holding up very well".

"To be honest, I think that the cold weather is causing more problems than bird flu," he added.

Peter Allen, managing director of Midlands-based meat supplier Aubrey Allen, said his business had experienced "no impact whatsoever" on poultry sales.

"I admit we did expect a downturn in chicken, but it simply hasn't happened," he said. "I think the British have probably been a bit battered by food scares and they are just not taking this one that seriously."

Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, also played down threats to the sector from bird flu. "It's very important to keep perspective on the issue and not let uninformed scare stories generate inaccurate information," he said.

Restaurant groups Gourmet Holdings and Clapham House also said they had not experienced any difference in the number of customers ordering chicken from the menu.

Bird flu - your questions answered

Is it safe to eat poultry meat and eggs? Current advice is that avian flu does not pose a food-safety risk. The risk comes from being in close contact with live poultry that have the disease, not through eating cooked poultry or eggs.

What evidence is this based on? It is based on the evidence of experts including advisers to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Food Safety Authority and the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

Are there measures in place to prevent infected poultry and eggs entering the food chain? Controls put in place by the authorities mean that it is unlikely that infected poultry or eggs will enter the food chain.

I get my poultry from a supplier who sources from abroad. How do I know it is safe? Controls are in place to prevent the import of live birds, poultry meat and eggs from several non-EU countries that are affected by avian flu. When an outbreak of avian flu occurs in wild birds or a poultry flock in an EU member state, trade within the European Community may continue, but trade of poultry and poultry products from the affected parts of the member state will be restricted to protect animal health.

How about touching uncooked poultry meat? You should always wash your hands after handling raw poultry meat and eggs to avoid any contamination.

Does cooking poultry and eggs properly kill the virus? Cooking food thoroughly will kill bacteria and viruses.

Why does this advice differ from that of the World Health Organisation? The WHO advises the cooking of eggs until both whites and yolks are solid. The FSA has discussed this with the WHO, which
confirms that this advice is precautionary.

\* Information supplied by the Food Standards Agency. For more, go to www.food.gov.uk.

By Louise Durack

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