£600k bird flu compensation for Bernard Matthews

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Food processing firm Bernard Matthews will receive almost £600,000 in government compensation over the outbreak of bird flu at one of its turkey farms in February this year.

More than 160,000 turkeys were slaughtered at the Holton, Suffolk, site earlier this year after a highly virulent strain of avian influenza was discovered there.

The figure of £589,356.89 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is to compensate Bernard Matthews for the clinically healthy birds that were slaughtered for disease control under the Animal Health Act 1981.

In today's final report from Defra, the government admits that "no specific proven source" has been identified for the outbreak.

But it states that the virus could have been introduced to the UK via the import of turkey meat from Hungary, possibly from a wild bird source that also infected two goose farms in the central European country.

"The epidemiology investigation is an important part of increasing our understanding of avian influenza. Most potential routes of infection are controlled through current procedures," said the UK's chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds.

"However, the outbreak in Suffolk appears to be the outcome of a series of normally low probability events and circumstances which cumulatively led to the introduction of disease."

Animal health minister Ben Bradshaw added: "Although we cannot be sure how the outbreak happened, this episode reflects the need for constant vigilance, high levels of bio-security and robust and well developed contingency planning in dealing with animal disease outbreaks."

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