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France hit by first bird flu outbreak in eight years

By Oscar Rousseau , 30-Nov-2015
Last updated on 30-Nov-2015 at 13:31 GMT2015-11-30T13:31:39Z

South Korea cuts French poultry exports over fears of bird flu
South Korea cuts French poultry exports over fears of bird flu

Agriculture ministers in France are on high alert after the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu strain was discovered on a family-run farm in Dordogne. 

The deadly avian influenza (AI) was found in the south-west of France and killed nearly 75% of all chickens stored in a family’s backyard. After the discovery, French authorities were quick to order the culling of the remaining 10 birds.

Just 22 birds were killed by AI. Overall, this is a relatively insignificant figure compared to the 235m chickens produced every year in France, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Despite the small number of chickens hit with AI, French authorities have taken no chances, moving with impressive speed to stop the outbreak from spreading..

Save zone

A surveillance zone of 10km around the farm has been established to monitor the site of contamination and ensure AI does not spread to neighbouring poultry farms.

Dordogne, in the Perigord region, is home to a highly concentrated population of foie gras and poultry producers and there were early fears the outbreak could quickly get out of hand.

And although bird flu can be dangerous to humans, officials in the French department of agriculture have gone to great lengths to stress there is no risk to human life.

This virus has no effect as far as consuming poultry meat or anything that comes from poultry products is concerned – I am thinking particularly about foie gras since we are approaching times of high consumption,” agriculture minister Stephane Le Foll said.

Korea pulls out

A day after France’s agriculture minister made the announcement, South Korea made one of its own: imports of French poultry, including the luxury foie gras, were off the menu and temporarily banned.

Data published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs stated it imported 1 tonne (t) of duck meat, 13t of duck liver, 840,000 live chicks and around 40,000 ducklings in 2014.

The Ministry also urged its citizens in France – along with those in other AI-hit areas – not to visit livestock farms or farmers’ markets, and not to bring poultry products back to South Korea.

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