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Brussels, 11 March 2004

Commission suspends EU poultry imports from Canada after avian influenza outbreak

Following the confirmation of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) outbreak in British Columbia (Canada), the European Commission adopted the proposal from EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne to suspend the import of live poultry, poultry meat and products, eggs and pet birds from this country into the European Union (EU) with immediate effect until 6 April. 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.

On 9 March, the Canadian authorities have confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) in a poultry flock in the State of British Columbia (Fraser Valley). 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, fresh meat, meat products, hatching eggs and eggs for human consumption of these species and birds other than poultry (pet birds) from Canada.

These actions, adopted by the Commission today, enter immediately into force. They are for the moment applicable until 6 April 2004. In the meantime, the Canadian 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 Canada will be reviewed at the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health scheduled for 22 March.

The EU is a major importer of hatching eggs from Canada. In 2003, approximately 15 million hatching eggs for a value of € 10.5 million have been imported. This represents about 1/3 of the total imports of hatching eggs in the EU. In the same year, approximately 170,000 day old chicks have been imported from Canada. The import of poultry meat and poultry products from Canada is negligible (50 tonnes of duck cuts in 2003).

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