Expatica news

Minister urges stronger EU bird flu checks

23 March 2004

AMSTERDAM — Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman has warned his European Union colleagues that the Netherlands is not the only country facing avian bird flu infections and he called for a system of stringent checks in all European countries.

Veerman refused to identify countries by name, but said Dutch authorities had noted that checks on imported birds had confirmed the bird flu virus was also present in other European poultry industries, news agency ANP reported on Tuesday.

The minister’s comments came after Dutch authorities culled about 100 ducks, chickens and other birds over the weekend after it was found that the birds — which originated from a foreign supplier — were carrying antibodies to the bird flu virus.

The North Brabant farm in question was the fourth Dutch farm to have undergone a preventative cull in the past few weeks. Poultry at all four farms have come into contact with a mild variant of the bird flu virus.

The Netherlands is keen to prevent another outbreak of the bird flu, which swept across the country at the start of last year resulting in the death of more than 25 million birds.

It was not compulsory for Veerman to order the four recent preventative culls — one of which involved the slaughter of 22,000 birds in the Groningen province  — but decided to go ahead with the cull as a precautionary measure.

The Agriculture Ministry has also said the bird flu crisis of 2003 was possibly caused after a mild variant of the virus changed into an aggressive form, warranting the latest cautionary approach.

But Minister Veerman also said it was “completely unjustified” that Russia, Japan, Singapore and Poland have closed their borders to Dutch poultry imports. “We are being penalised for our cautiousness,” he said.

Poland has since reopened its border to Dutch poultry products, but is continuing to refuse ducks and chickens from the Groningen and Limburg provinces, the Dutch Product Boards for Livestock, Meat and Eggs (PVE) said.

The PVE is locked in talks with Russia — which took 10 percent of the Dutch poultry export in 2002 — about reopening its markets. The PVE claims more stringent checks after the bird flu crisis of 2003 have resulted in more frequent discoveries of innocent bird flu strains.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news