Turkey tycoon denies responsibility for bird flu outbreak

Turkey tycoon Bernard Matthews, has apologised to customers in Britain for the outbreak of bird flu on one of his Suffolk farms.

The founder of Britain's largest poultry firm, says despite the recent outbreak, his turkey products are safe to eat.

Matthews however appears to take no responsibility for the outbreak and insists it had "not been of our making".

The outbreak on February 3rd has resulted in 160,000 turkeys being culled at the Holton plant near Lowestoft and government vets have since confirmed that the virus is the highly pathogenic avian influenza strain and is virtually identical to recent outbreaks at a Hungarian goose farm.

Matthews also owns a turkey processing plant 30 miles west of the infected goose farm, but has also strongly denied any link with the Suffolk outbreak and suggestions of a cover up.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has so far found no evidence of a link between the two central European sites.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) this week ruled that Bernard Matthews products held in cold storage could enter the food chain after concluding that they contained no meat from restricted Hungarian zones.

The poultry company has seen its sales fall by up to 40%.

The crisis has revealed that Bernard Matthews transported meat from all over Europe despite building a reputation as a British producer and this may be a longer lasting effect than the bird flu scare itself.

Smaller poultry producers have accused the authorities of double standards by allowing the company to transport live birds even in the exclusion zones while theirs are kept indoors.

They also feel the reopening of the factory so soon was an insensitive move as wagons can be seen taking live turkeys down to the plant while neighbouring farmers are not allowed to let their poultry out and poultry sales and auctions have been cancelled for a second week running.

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