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NEWS RELEASE
From the office of the South-East England's Green MEP Caroline Lucas


February 19th,
2006

EU TO PROBE UK HANDLING OF BIRD FLU OUTBREAK

MEP: 'PREMATURE RE-OPENING OF SUFFOK FARM BREACHES EU LAW'

THE EU today faces calls to investigate the Government's decision to allow
poultry processing to resume at the Bernard Matthews farm at the centre of
the Suffolk bird flu outbreak - a possible breach of EU rules designed to
prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas, who has demanded that the European
Commission investigate the possible safety breach, said: "Despite all its
talk of 'the best bio-security in the world' the Government has failed to
test a single wild bird within 50 miles of the affected Bernard Matthews
factory farm for the H5N1 virus.

"It would appear that this is in breach of EU regulations designed to stop
the spread of the disease - and as such it is an appalling dereliction of
duty which could cost British farmers dear.

"If the government doesn't follow EU rules it is British farmers who will
pay the price, as this failure means the disease is more likely to strike
again - and the EU will be able to blame the UK Government and deny any
compensation claims. I have today demanded the European Commission
investigate the Government's decision to allow the plant to re-open so
soon."

Dr Lucas, who is a member of the European Parliament's influential
Environment Committee and served as Vice-President of the parliament's
Committee of Inquiry into the Government's handling of the 2001 Foot and
Mouth Disease outbreak, made her comments after reports in the UK national
press that DEFRA officials admitted wild gulls had been observed feeding
from bins at the farm - and could be spreading the disease to other flocks -
but that they had not been tested at all.

She added: "It is extraordinarily complacent for the Government to allow the
factory to start processing meat destined for the dinner table so quickly.

This decision is premature, both in terms of preventing further outbreaks
and protecting consumers' health. It seems as though it might be taken too
soon for the law as well."


ENDS