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Brussels, 24 February 2004

Commission suspends EU poultry imports from the USA after avian influenza outbreak in Texas

Following the confirmation of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) outbreak in Texas (USA), the European Commission adopted the proposal from EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne to suspend the import of live poultry, eggs and pet birds from this country into the European Union (EU) with immediate effect until 23 March. Avian influenza is a highly contagious poultry disease that can cause severe economic damage to the poultry industry and can, in exceptional cases, be transmitted to humans.

Commenting on the decision, David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection said: "This immediate ban is designed to protect the high health status of the European poultry flocks. I have put it the ban in place until 23 March but will keep it under review."

Yesterday, the US authorities have confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) in a poultry flock in the State of Texas (Gonzales County). The detected AI virus strain is different from the strain currently causing the epidemic in Asia and probably poses inferior public health risk to the Asian one.

However, in view of the risk of animal disease introduction into the EU, immediate action is appropriate. The Commission therefore decided to suspend the imports of live poultry, ratites, farmed and wild feathered game, hatching eggs and eggs for human consumption and birds other than poultry (pet birds) from all of the USA.

These actions, adopted by the Commission today, enter immediately into force. They are for the moment applicable until 23 March. In the meantime, the US authorities should provide the EU with detailed information on the situation and the measures taken to bring the disease under control. In the light of the information received in the next days, further appropriate proportionate measures could be proposed.

The adopted Commission decision and the disease situation in the USA will be reviewed at the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health scheduled for 2-3 March.

The EU is a major importer of eggs and day old chicks from the USA. In 2003, approximately 9 million eggs for a value of € 20 million have been imported. This represents about 25% of the total imports of eggs in the EU. In the same year, approximately 450,000 day old chicks for a value of € 2.5 million (about 50% of the total imports in the EU) have been imported from the USA. The EU does not import poultry meat from the USA because the current treatment of poultry carcasses in the USA is not accepted by the EU.

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