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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 16:17 GMT
Cooked turkey from UK 'was safe'
Selection of Bernard Matthews meats
The public have been told cooked meat is safe
Cooked turkey products exported from the bird flu-infected Bernard Matthews farm in Suffolk are safe, the government has said.

Officials said there was no risk of infection in cooked meat moved from the plant since the virus was detected.

Hungary said Bernard Matthews exported turkey meat last week to the country, where the UK outbreak may have begun.

The firm said it transported frozen raw meat as well as cooked, but according to "all the required regulations".

The origin of that meat would have been from a number of Bernard Matthews' farms none of which would have been affected by bird flu, it added.

Environment Secretary David Miliband is to hold talks with senior officials, vets and public health experts later.

They are to discuss the action taken against the disease so far and find out how the investigation is progressing.

Meanwhile, European Union officials said they were expecting results by Tuesday of tests into whether the strain of H5N1 bird flu found in Britain was directly linked to the one in Hungary.

"However, the results cannot determine how the strain of bird flu actually arrived in the UK," an official said.

Bird flu was originally confirmed on the Bernard Matthews plant in Holton, Suffolk, on 3 February, and 159,000 turkeys were culled.

Its farm at Holton, where bird flu was detected, was shut down after the outbreak was first suspected - but a processing unit on the same site continued to operate.

The firm announced on 8 February that it had voluntarily suspended all movements of its poultry products between the UK and a plant it owns in Hungary.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said there was no risk of cooked meat from the unit being infected.

TIMELINE
1 Feb: Vets called to Bernard Matthews farm in Suffolk after turkeys die
3 Feb: Vets confirm H5N1 strain
5 Feb: Environment minister says most likely cause is from wild bird, but other possibilities being investigated
6 Feb: Cull of 159,000 turkeys completed at the farm
8 Feb: Government vet suggests turkey meat from Hungary may be to blame. Bernard Matthews denies link
9 Feb: FSA examines whether infected meat may have entered food chain
10 Feb: Supermarkets deny there has been a slump in poultry sales

"The heating process quickly kills the virus and therefore this meat will be perfectly safe," a spokeswoman said.

"Bernard Matthews voluntarily stopped transporting to and from Hungary last week."

The comments came after chief vet Lajos Bognar told Channel 4 that meat had left the Holton plant and arrived at Bernard Matthews' Hungarian site on either Wednesday or Thursday.

"I can say that from the protection zone, from the UK, six trucks arrived from there last week, to Hungary," he said.

'Confusing'

Opposition politicians and some scientists say the government and Bernard Matthews need to be much more open about exactly what is coming and going from the infected premises.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The Government have chosen to put EU laws before the welfare of the people of this country. They have let people down.
Anne, West Midlands

MEP Neil Parish, who chairs the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee in the European Parliament, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme moving lorries in and out of the plant was "ridiculous".

Peter Ainsworth, the Conservative spokesman for rural affairs, told BBC Radio Five Live there had been "confusing advice" from government agencies since the bird flu outbreak.

'No regulations breach'

Reports on Sunday said Bernard Matthews imported turkey from Hungary in the days after the outbreak, despite the government suspecting Hungary was the source of the disease.

Currently EU rules mean Hungary cannot export any poultry from a 10km zone around the bird flu-hit area - but anybody outside the zone can continue to trade.

Bernard Matthews insists it has done nothing wrong.

A spokesman said: "Bernard Matthews can confirm that it imports meat from Hungary and exports it to Hungary as well.

"All these imports and exports are regulated and Bernard Matthews adheres strictly to all the regulations."

The H5N1 virus, which causes bird flu, does not pose a large-scale threat to humans as it cannot pass easily from one person to another.

But experts fear the virus could mutate and trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.

Composite map showing location of bird-flu outbreaks in Hungary and UK and site of Bernard Matthews processing plant in Hungary




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Meat processing units in Suffolk and Hungary



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