News update:Feb 23, 2007

H5N1 may be in human food chain

Initial tests have shown that the strain of avian flu involved in the outbreak that led to the culling of  turkeys at the Suffolk farm is H5N1 and may be identical to the variety responsible for two serious outbreaks in Hungary last month.

The environment minister Ben Bradshaw said the government was investigating whether there had been "bio-security breaches" at the plant. After a meeting of the cabinet's emergency contingency committee, called Cobra, he said the Hungarian authorities were examining whether contaminated produce had come in from a slaughterhouse close to the restricted area.
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said that it was investigating the possibility that turkey meat contaminated by bird flu at a Bernard Matthews poultry farm has entered the human food chain.
The government's chief scientist, Sir David King, said the FSA would be considering ordering supermarkets to remove packaged turkey from shelves after it emerged that Bernard Matthews had been transporting turkey meat from Hungary to the Suffolk farm where the H5N1 strain of the virus was discovered.
"As part of the investigation into what might have caused the outbreak of bird flu in a Suffolk poultry farm, the agency will check that no infected meat has got into food," the FSA said in a statement. Bradshaw warned that legal action could be launched following the latest developments and possible breaches in bio-security at the plant.

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