Bernard Matthews's subsidiary defends poultry trading

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Avian influenza, United kingdom, European union, Eu

Sága Foods, the Hungarian subsidiary of Bernard Matthews, has
defended its decision to continue exporting its products throughout
the EU, despite an ongoing investigation into a bird flu outbreak
at the company's UK operations.

"Why should we have been asked to cease trading?"​ said Mihály Szilágyi, an executive at Sága. "Everything is thoroughly checked by both company and the state veterinarians, if there were any problems, the authorities would put those items on hold,"​ he told CEE-Foodindustry.com​. "AnyUKmeat Sága bought has been used in cooked products – frankfurters and parisiantype - so no harm can be done anyway,"​ he added. The comments come as the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) continues to investigate whether meat infected with the H5N1 at the company's sister plant in Holton, Norfolk, may have made it way back into the Hungarian food chain. Defra's findings will be of particular concern for Hungarian poultry processors who are keen to protect the reputation of its products, after the country last month became the first EU member state to confirm an avian influenza outbreak in half a year. There has been concern that safety measures designed to prevent the spread of avian influenza may need to be replaced by stricter trade restrictions. The EU has currently forbidden member states from banning Hungarian poultry products after satisfying itself that the country's officials had successfully carried out measures to prevent a spread of the disease. Szilágyi played down fears that Sága's production facilities could be in danger of spreading the outbreak further into the bloc. "Our slaughterhouse is330 km from Délegyház, where the H5N1 outbreak happened,"​ he said. He added: "Our nearest farm to that placeis in Tamási, which is exactly 200 km from Délegyház. We continue with our operations as usual.""We do care for our customers and we only provide them with first class products. Everybodycan sleep safely."​ Bernard Matthews' UK plant at Holton has been at the centre of a media storm this week, following the confirmation of an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza at the site. After the initial announcement of the outbreak, there was further controversy when reports suggested that there was a possibility infected meat may have been returned to Hungary to be used in meat production at Sága's plant. Under EU rules designed to prevent the spread of H5N1 live birds, eggs and carcasses are forbidden from being transported out of infected sites, though stored processed meat, is not included in these restriction. Dame Deirdre Hutton of the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) backed Saga's stance on the outbreak, suggesting consumers had little to fear from concerns of safety in EU poultry products. "The investigation so far has not found anything that raises the risk to public health,"​ she said. ​"It is still a possibility that infected poultry has entered the food chain but the risk to public health remains low."

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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