> DEFRA Amends Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, Protects Free-Range Status of British Eggs - The Food Safety Company DEFRA Amends Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, Protects Free-Range Status of British Eggs - The Food Safety Company
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    Friday, 10 February 2017

    DEFRA Amends Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, Protects Free-Range Status of British Eggs

    In recent months, avian influenza (bird flu) has once again reared its ugly head, creating substantial problems for the nation’s poultry farmers. In response, avian influenza prevention zones and housing orders were implemented across the country in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, as we reported earlier this month, this approach was not without its problems, particularly for the free range egg industry.

    According to official EU legislation, free range birds can only be housed for up to 12 weeks before they lose their free range status, at which point any eggs produced are downgraded in classification to barn eggs. Along with this change in classification comes a significant drop in retail price whilst producers face the same costs for land and upkeep. In some cases, the housing order actually increased costs to farmers as they needed to provide safe indoor quarters for their birds, for which they were not prepared.

    In order to prevent losses in the egg industry that could reach far into the millions, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced that it will lift the housing order from the end of February, allowing the nation’s birds to keep their free range status. However, the risk of infection cannot be completely ignored, so the prevention zones and subsequent housing order will remain in place in what DEFRA describes as ‘higher risk areas’, defined as “areas of the country close to substantial inland or coastal bodies of water where significant numbers of wild birds (particularly wild waterfowl or gulls) collect.”

    Img: DEFRA
    DEFRA states that you will only be considered to be in a Higher Risk Area (HRA) if the whole of your poultry premises falls within this area. If any part of the premises is outside the HRA, then it will not be considered to be in a HRA.

    Speaking on behalf of the British Free Range Egg Producers’ Association (BFREPA), chief executive Robert Gooch told FarmingUK, “I am delighted that, in principle, birds will be out, although subject to very tight new bio-security measures,

    “There will still be producers in high risk areas where the housing order will continue to apply. We will be working hard on their behalf on the implications for labelling and pricing in particular.”

    The guidance from DEFRA currently lists three options for bird keepers in order to keep domesticated birds and wilds ones separated, which are as follows:
    • Housing - option open to all areas of England.
    • Total netting/aviaries/covered runs - option open to all areas of England
    • Supervised access to enclosed outdoor areas - This option is not currently permitted and will only be available outside ‘Higher Risk Areas’ after 28 February.
    Those voluntarily opting for the housing option, or those who must due to being in a higher risk area, will lose the free range status of their eggs after the end of February.

    In order to minimise the risk of infection, DEFRA have also given the following list of minimum biosecurity standards that must be adhered to by all keepers of poultry and captive birds:
    • Taking all reasonable precautions to avoid the transfer of contamination between premises, including cleansing and disinfection of equipment, vehicles and footwear;
    • Where possible, domestic ducks and geese should be separated from other species;
    • Reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept;
    • Ensuring feed, water and bedding has not been contaminated by or been in contact with wild birds and in particular gulls and waterfowl;
    • Implementing effective vermin control where poultry or captive birds are kept;
    • Records must be kept of all vehicles and people that enter the part of a premises where poultry are kept.

    Sam Bonson

    Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.
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