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March 2 2007

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070302/text/70302w0012.htm#07030263000112
 

Avian Influenza

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the remit is of the inquiry by his Department into the recent events at Bernard Matthews at Holton in Suffolk; and how the (a) proceedings and (b) conclusions of the inquiry will be communicated to the public. [124186]

Mr. Bradshaw: The final Food Standards Agency-led report into the possible transmission of the H5N1 avian influenza virus from imported Hungarian turkey meat to the UK was published on February 16. It concluded that there is no evidence that any meat has entered the UK food chain from the restricted zones in Hungary and that all food importing and processing activities undertaken were in line with European Commission law. It also found that the risk to workers in around the Bernard Mathews food plant, and by other routes was very low.

Defra's interim epidemiological report, published on February 16, concluded that the importation of poultry products via Hungary is currently the most plausible route of transmission. This investigation is still ongoing. All possible routes of infection are being investigated and we have not yet been able to rule out any method of introduction. A full report will be published on the Defra website when the investigation is complete. Copies will also be placed in the Libraries of the House. It is likely that this will take a further few weeks.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how avian influenza was spread from one shed to others at Bernard Matthews' Holton plant; and what the time period was between first identification of the virus and later identification in other sheds. [124321]

Mr. Bradshaw: Highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza was confirmed on the Bernard Matthew's Holton plant on 3 February. All birds on the plant were culled between 17:30 on 3 February and 20:45 on 5 February.


2 Mar 2007 : Column 1614W

Samples were taken from the birds in all 21 sheds when they were culled. The presence of highly pathogenic H5N1 infection, of the Asian lineage, was confirmed in three other sheds on 9 February. On-site epidemiological investigations indicate that these sheds might have become infected as a result of a reduction of biosecurity measures following the initial laboratory results from the clinically affected birds. Staff previously assigned to groups of other sheds were used for the depopulation of the affected house. Personnel movements between the sheds is therefore a possible means of dissemination.

This investigation is still ongoing. A full report will be published on the Defra website when the investigation is complete. Copies will also be placed in the Libraries of the House. It is likely that this will take a few weeks yet.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when his Department first learnt that Hungarian poultry meat was being transported to Bernard Matthews at Holton, Suffolk. [124322]

Mr. Bradshaw: My Department was aware of regular consignments of poultry meat from Hungary to the Bernard Matthews plant in Holton, taking place in compliance with European Union intra-community trade legislation, before the clinical outbreak of H5N1 infection.

However, on 13 February, test results revealed that the strain of virus found in the Holton turkeys was a 99.96 per cent. match to the strain found in Hungary. This made transmission direct from Hungary more likely and this is when our investigation began to focus on this possible link.

The investigation is ongoing and we have not yet been able to rule out any method of virus introduction.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what procedures his Department put in operation to effect a rapid cull of turkeys at Holton; and what alternative options were considered. [124324]

Mr. Bradshaw: Culling to control the recent outbreak of H5N1 was carried out in accordance with Defra's revised Contingency Plan for Exotic Animal Diseases, which was laid before Parliament on 13 December 2006 and the State Veterinary Service operational instructions.

With the number of birds involved, gassing was considered to be the only practical option. Following a review of the various gassing options, a decision was made to kill the birds in a slaughterhouse adjacent to the premise using an anoxic gas mixture.

The Department's priorities were to ensure the health and safety of all involved in the operation, that bird welfare was safeguarded and that we completed the process as quickly as possible without compromising biosecurity.

Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what biosecurity methods are in operation at Holton; and what methods are in use at other poultry units in England. [124325]

 

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Mr. Bradshaw: The Holton site comprises a turkey finishing unit, a slaughterhouse, and two processing plants. There are numerous controls throughout the various stages of production and processing, with additional measures in place during an outbreak. These measures include the cleansing of equipment, transport and people, and separation of animal and meat products. Biosecurity measures in place at the Holton finishing unit included:

    (i) disinfection of feed and other delivery lorries on entry and departure

    (ii) staff working in the finishing units were separate from those in the slaughterhouse and processing units and were restricted to sheds for which they were responsible

    (iii) staff were required to shower on entry to the site and change footwear on entry to any particular House of Commons (sic Hansard typo...)

    (iv) and staff were not allowed to keep their own poultry.

DEFRA does not collect such information from other poultry units although these are the kind of measures that owners and managers of the larger operations, such as those at the Holton site, would adopt. We are, however, not aware of many other finishing units in the UK which have a processing factory located as near as at the Holton site. Other finishing units, therefore, may have a less complex biosecurity regime to protect the health of the birds.

Local authorities, and the Meat Hygiene Service enforce compliance with animal health, welfare and public health legislation. Information has been published in the two reports into this outbreak (available from the Library of the House) and a final epidemiological report is yet to be published.

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason the birds recently slaughtered having been infected with avian influenza were transported from Suffolk to Staffordshire to be destroyed. [124986]

Mr. Bradshaw: The rendering plant in Staffordshire was chosen as it was the nearest plant to the H5N1 outbreak that had the necessary biosecurity measures in place to deal with a case of this kind, and also had the capacity to deal with the number of birds.

Strict biosecurity measures are in place for the transportation of animals culled for disease control purposes. The carcases were transported in specialist leak-proof lorries, fully covered with securely fixed top covers or tarpaulins.

A number of measures were taken prior to the lorries leaving the infected premises to ensure that trucks were not overfilled and leaks did not occur. Prior to use, each vehicle is leak tested and visually inspected for defects. Before being licensed* off the site, the external surfaces of the vehicle were sprayed down with an approved disinfectant as a further biosecurity measure. Each batch of trucks was also accompanied by an escort to ensure that the trucks did not leak, that material did not fall from the vehicle and that, in the unlikely event of an accident or incident involving the vehicle, measures could be taken to protect human and animal health and the environment.

Drivers carried a certificate of leak-testing and a transport incident record card which detailed the actions to be taken in the event of an accident or incident.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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