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Brussels, 4 July 2006

Avian Influenza: Protection measures and import bans prolonged and amended

A number of draft Commission Decisions introducing, amending and prolonging measures to protect the EU against avian influenza were backed by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health today.

Captive and pet birds

The Standing Committee today voted in favour of a Commission proposal to prolong, until 31 December 2006, the ban on imports of live captive birds and the movement restrictions on pet birds entering the EU from third countries. The import ban on captive birds, birds other than poultry for commercial purposes, was first agreed by the Standing Committee in October 2005, as an EU protection measure in response to the growing threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza (see IP/05/1351). Certain derogations are laid down in the Decision, for example an exemption for zoo birds and hatching eggs of non-poultry birds which are being sent to authorised hatcheries or zoos. For pet birds accompanying their owners from third countries, the restrictions which are now to be prolonged to the end of the year include an entry limit of 5 birds per accompanying owner and strict quarantine requirements for these birds. Croatia is added to the list of countries for which the restrictions for pet birds do not apply. Already listed were Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Iceland, Greenland, Faeroe Islands and San Marino.

The Decisions on imports of live captive birds and pet birds have been prolonged specifically until December to be able to take into account the scientific opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the animal health and animal welfare risks associated with the import of birds other than poultry into the Community. This opinion is expected at the end of October and it will guide the future policy of the EU on the animal health and animal welfare aspects of these imports.

Dutch vaccination plan

Member States also agreed to the extension of the Dutch preventive vaccination programme, which was approved in February (IP/06/210) and reached its authorised deadline last week. On the basis of an evaluation of work already carried out, the Dutch authorities will also make certain technical changes to improve their programme. These include an extension of the scope of the programme to cover more species (e.g. geese), provision for fully vaccinated birds to be moved to national exhibitions, and changes which will make vaccination cheaper and easier for hobby farmers.

Hungarian measures prolonged

In light of further confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in domestic birds in southern Hungary, the Standing Committee backed a Commission proposal to extend the prevention and control measures already in place until 31 August 2006. Since an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 was confirmed in domestic geese in the south of the country in mid-June, there have been a total of 20 –to this date-suspected or confirmed cases, all located within the same area and within the restriction zones. The Hungarian authorities are applying the prevention and control measures laid down in the Avian Influenza Directive and the Commission Decision on measures to be taken in the event of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry (see IP/06/180).

Import restrictions for 3 Asian countries, Turkey and Croatia

The import bans on poultry products from China, Malaysia and Thailand will remain in place until 31 December 2007, the Standing Committee agreed today. These restrictions are still deemed necessary due to the fact that the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus is still present in South East Asia. EU safeguard measures against avian influenza taken in relation to Turkish exports will also be prolonged until 31 December 2006. These measures can be reviewed in the mean time depending on the evolution of the disease in the world.

For Croatia, the Standing Committee agreed to amend the safeguard measures in place, so that when Croatia detects a case of avian influenza in wild birds, the import restrictions will only apply to regions for which the Croatian authorities apply restrictions themselves. This reflects the Decision taken for Switzerland in May (see IP/06/590). The amendment was deemed appropriate in view of the close cooperation between the Croatian authorities and the EU on avian influenza, and the fact that Croatia applies the same rigorous prevention and control measures in their restriction zones in the event of a case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds. For the moment there are no restrictions in place in Croatia.

Untreated feathers

The EU ban on untreated feathers from all third countries will also be extended until 31 December 2006, following agreement by the Standing Committee today. Since this Decision was adopted in February 2006, only feathers treated with a steam current, or another method which ensures that no pathogens remain in the product, are allowed to enter the EU from third countries. This is in line with an EFSA Opinion which stated that feathers should be properly treated before being traded, to reduce the risk of avian influenza being spread through feathers and feather parts.
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