Firm defends bird flu response

FOOD giant Bernard Matthews says it reacted quickly to the bird flu outbreak and is today “bemused” at reports claiming it had responded slowly.A Bernard Matthews spokesman said it only became clear there was a problem on Wednesday, when 180 birds died, despite 50 dying the day before.

FOOD giant Bernard Matthews said it reacted quickly to the bird flu outbreak and is today “bemused” at reports claiming it had responded slowly.

A Bernard Matthews spokesman said it only became clear there was a problem on Wednesday, when 180 birds died, despite 50 dying the day before.

He said: “The vet made his decision on Thursday, as soon as he decided there was something here that could not be identified, we made the decision to alert Defra.

“Our response was much faster than many other places would have been. We are bemused that we are seen as so slow.”

It was thought carcasses of the 159,000 birds being culled were due to start being taken to John Proctor and Sons in Cheddleton, Staffordshire, today.

The company, which is based around 200 miles away from the Bernard Matthews' site, will dispose of the remains.

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Bernard Matthews is entitled to compensation under the Animal Health Act 1981 for all healthy birds slaughtered to control diseases, including avian flu. No compensation would be paid for the more than 2,000 birds who died of the avian flu virus, and any pay out would not include clean up costs to ensure the farm was free of the disease.

It comes after it was revealed the outbreak could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Experts say the latest outbreak of avian flu could have been caused by wild birds.

Fred Landeg, deputy chief veterinary officer, warned that very cold weather could force wild birds to head west, upping the risk of infecting domestic birds.

And Andre Farrar, East of England spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: “We can't rule out that this has come from a wild bird, although it is hard to envisage a direct route from migratory birds, ducks, geese, swans, who would not be able to get into the building.

“But there is speculation that other birds got into the unit and they transmitted the virus. That is one possibility that has got to be looked at, alongside other possibilities.”

Mr Lanbeg said he was confident the flu outbreak has been contained to the farm. He said the birds affected were 56 days old and had originated from a hatchery in the UK. Because of their age, no birds and no product had left the premises, he said.

Do you think the authorities and Bernard Matthews have reacted well to the outbreak? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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