A bird flu scare has hit French poultry and egg exports

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Monday suspended the import of poultry, eggs and dairy products from seven French regions over a bird flu outbreak.

The Saudi Food and Drug Authority said the regions include France’s southwestern Dordogne, where the highly virulent H5N1 strain of the virus was identified in November.

The director of the French Aviculture Confederation, Christian Marinov, played down the significance of a move which does not cover Brittany or Vendee, the only regions to export and to date free from bird flu.

“It’s of no consequence as exports are from Brittany and Vendee” via the Doux group – which handles 100 per cent of exports from France to non-EU states,” Marinov told news agency. Several countries including Japan and China had already banned French poultry imports as a result of the outbreak.

“This temporary ban is to continue until the health status of the livestock is stable,” SFDA said. It added that poultry, eggs and dairy products that have been treated thermally or in another way to eliminate the virus are exempt from the suspension.

According to Business France, the French export promotion agency, France was the second-biggest exporter of poultry products to Saudi Arabia in 2013 and volume had risen 64 percent since 2009. The World Health Organization says the H5N1 virus does not infect humans easily but when it does it is fatal in about 60 percent of cases.

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