Bernard Matthews denies sales drop figures

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bernard matthews Transmission and infection of h5n1 Avian influenza Influenza

Since this story was published Bernard Matthews has confirmed
that sales of some products have fallen by 40 per cent on some days
since the avian influenza outbreak began.

Media reports that sales of Bernard Matthews poultry products have fallen by up to 40 per cent due to the bird flu scare were today denied by the company. In a statement issued to a spokesperson said the figure that has spread through the media is not official. "We can assure you we have never put this figure out,"​ the spokesperson said. "It's very misleading."​ The spokesperson said that the 10 per cent drop in sales figures reported by supermarkets provides a more accurate estimate. The 40 per cent drop in sales claim was made by BBC News and other media. While poultry demand may be in question, the supply is set to resume as the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) today announced Bernard Matthews can resume movements of products between the UK and Hungary from midnight tonight. Meanwhile, a joint final report issued by regulators today said that Hungarian meat imported into the UK was "currently the most plausible" route of transmission. The statement also said that there was "little evidence" wild birds may have carried the infection. The report was put out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Defra, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS). Last night Defra began a forward programme of trilateral discussions involving Hungarian, UK and EU officials. The scare surrounding the H5N1 outbreak had led to diplomatic tensions earlier this week. The UK's deputy chief veterinary officer, Fred Landeg, said regulators will continue to work closely with Hungarian officials and the European Commission. "We will share information and discuss our on-going investigation into theSuffolkincident, including today's reports,"​ he said at a press conference this morning. The Bernard Matthews facility, where 159,000 birds were culled following discovery of the outbreak, was also re-opened this week. Now production is returning to normal in the Holton site and movements of poultry between Hungary and the UK is set to resume, Bernard Matthews faces the uphill task of regaining public confidence and rebuilding the brand. YouGov's BrandIndex, which monitors consumer attitudes to 1,100 brands every day, reported that Bernard Matthews is the second worst liked brand in Britain, behind only McDonald's. The UK's uncooked poultry market is worth £2.3bn a year and continues to grow at 2.6 per cent annual rate, according to ACNielsen. The UK exported 271,000 tonnes of poultry meat worth £220.4m in the 12 months to October 2006, according to the British Poultry Council. Of the value £31.1m was earned from exports of turkey meat alone, the bulk of which goes to other European countries. About 90 per cent of the poultry meat consumed in the UK is produced domestically. The H5N1 strain is usually carried by wild birds and then transmitted to domestic flocks. In rare cases the deadly disease can be transmitted to humans. H5N1 has so far infected 271 people worldwide, of whom 166 have died, mainly in Asia. The UK outbreak represents the largest incident of avian influenza in a domestic flock in central Europe and a resurgence of the disease. Europe had had no reported cases of avian flu since last August.

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