8 countries suspend French poultry imports after bird flu

Poultry importing countries stop importing from France after bird flu outbreak

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Eight countries, including Japan and Morocco, have suspended imports of French poultry after the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus was detected in southwestern France, home to many foie gras and poultry producers, the agriculture ministry said on Thursday.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus killed 22 chickens out of 32 kept in a family backyard at Biras in the Perigord region, officials said on Nov. 25. It was the first outbreak in eight years to hit the European Union's biggest agricultural producer.

An official at the ministry said South Korea, China, Thailand, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia were the other countries to suspend imports. She declined to give further details.

France's health and safety agency has been evaluating the strain's degree of danger to humans, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told reporters last week, insisting there was no risk of transmission by eating food.

The outbreak comes just before demand for foie gras, produced from duck or goose liver, peaks over the year-end holiday season, but officials play down any impact.

Sales of French foie gras were worth around 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) at the wholesale level last year.

Several countries including Japan, Egypt and Hong Kong banned French poultry following past outbreaks of H5N1. Japan is the largest importer of French foie gras.

Several cases of bird flu have been detected in the last two weeks of the farms in the Dordogne, a first in France since 2007 and the discovery of H5N1 in wild swans in Moselle.