Matthews denies flu is linked to Hungary

FOOD giant Bernard Matthews has denied the potentially deadly strain of avian flu at its Suffolk farm is linked to a series of similar outbreaks of the disease in Hungary.

FOOD giant Bernard Matthews has denied the potentially deadly strain of avian flu at its Suffolk farm is linked to a series of similar outbreaks of the disease in Hungary.

A spokesman for Europe's biggest turkey producer said all of the birds at its site in Holton, near Halesworth, were reared in Britain and were from British eggs.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu was confirmed in one turkey shed on Saturday and is the same as that found last month in Hungary - where an outbreak among geese on a farm prompted the slaughter of thousands of birds.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is investigating all movement of people and animals on and off the farm.

This includes any links it could have had with Hungary, where there have been several similar outbreaks in the last month and where Bernard Matthews owns Saga Foods, the country's largest poultry company.

But a company spokesman said none of the turkeys at Holton had come from overseas.

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He said: “All of the birds were reared in Britain and come from British eggs.

“The company meets and in many cases far exceeds Defra's biosecurity standards for combating avian flu.”

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary David Miliband said the outbreak of bird flu at the Suffolk farm poses only a "negligible" risk to the public.

Before the cull of almost 160,000 birds at the Bernard Matthews farm was completed last night, he told MPs the response had been "rapid, well co-ordinated and appropriate”.

And Mr Miliband, making a Commons statement hours after the Cabinet's emergency Cobra committee met to discuss the situation, told consumers it was safe to eat poultry and eggs.

Tony Blair joined the bid to ease public fears - his official spokesman telling reporters that he was happy to carry on eating poultry.

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