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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 February 2007, 19:04 GMT
Hungarians resist bird flu blame
By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Budapest

Chicken eggs are checked for bird flu in Hungary
Hungarian labs have not found any link to the UK bird flu outbreak
A month ago, the goose farm in Darekegyhaz would have echoed to the sound of thousands of birds.

But when I visit the place, it is completely silent.

Bird flu was recently discovered here and all the birds had to be destroyed.

Today the place is like a ghost town. The gate is locked, dogs roam the yard.

Another farm nearby was also affected and a 10km (six mile) exclusion zone set up around the area.

Now Hungarian investigators are trying to establish whether British bird flu came from these farms.

Unlikely scenario

Among the installations being checked is a large slaughterhouse - outside the exclusion zone, but only 64km (40 miles) away in the town of Kecskemet.

Hungarian officials have told us that Bernard Matthews bought poultry from this abattoir.

A worker in protective clothing performs a clean-up at a UK turkey farm
A cull of 160,000 birds was carried out in Suffolk, UK, last week
The fear is that meat from there may already have been infected and shipped to Britain.

So far, though, no signs of bird flu have been found at the slaughterhouse and Hungarian health and safety experts believe it is an unlikely scenario.

Local officials maintain it is just as likely that bird flu was brought to Britain by wild birds.

Meanwhile, Hungarians are getting irritated at the finger of blame being pointed at them.

'British hypocrisy'

At a restaurant in Budapest, there are plenty of customers with an appetite for defending their country.

"The blame game won't get us anywhere," one woman tells me. "We should work together to stop the virus."

As he tucks into the local chicken dish, one man makes it clear he has had a mouthful of what he sees as British hypocrisy.

"We Hungarians didn't make a fuss about British BSE," he says. "Britain shouldn't fuss about bird flu."

It is a theme echoed by the president of Hungary's Poultry Association, Barany Laszlo.

"This is the easy solution for the British customers and the British people," he says.

"To find the bird flu is coming from outside, for example, Hungary, Dutch, Germany. This is very easy answer, but the wrong answer."

That is national pride. But if a link between the outbreaks of British and Hungarian bird flu is proved, it could become a national embarrassment.

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