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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Ban call over salmonella findings
Chickens at a poultry farm
The Czech Republic had the highest salmonella levels in Europe
A report which revealed more than 50% of poultry farms in some EU countries were contaminated with salmonella has sparked calls for a ban on egg imports.

The leaked study, by the European Food Safety Authority, found 62% of farms in the Czech Republic were contaminated, 55% in Poland and 51% in Spain.

In the UK, almost 12% were found to have salmonella contamination - the third lowest in Europe.

The British Egg Industry Council said eggs below standard should be banned.

In total, 85% of the eggs eaten in Britain are produced on UK farms, the remainder are imported from Europe, according to the council.

It is estimated that the vast majority of these imports come from Spain.

Stringent biosecurity measures ... continue to ensure the highest safety standards for British Lion eggs
Andrew Joret, British Egg Industry Council

In the UK, vets checked more than 400 UK premises, testing dust, bird faeces and other material, the study said - which was revealed to the BBC's Newsnight programme.

It revealed salmonella contamination in 11.9% of farms with laying hens, with only 8% showing contamination with the most dangerous strain of the bacteria.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, this makes the UK's infection rate the third lowest of all EU member states.

Andrew Joret, deputy chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, called for sub-standard eggs to be banned from British shores.

"We believe that imports of eggs into the UK should be banned unless they have been produced to the standards required by the British Lion scheme, including vaccination of hens against salmonella, a best-before date on every egg and full traceability of eggs, hens and feed," he said.

Mr Joret also said the small number of positive samples put the UK's poultry farms among the best in Europe.

"The stringent biosecurity measures required by the Lion Code of Practice continue to ensure the highest safety standards for British Lion eggs and we are continuing to improve these still further."

Animal Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said the number of reported cases of the disease in humans was at its lowest level since a 1997 peak.

"Recent surveys of UK-produced eggs on sale in shops have shown a significant reduction in the level of contamination compared with previous surveys," he said.

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