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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 05:36 GMT
Turkey boss defends his company
Bernard Matthews
Bernard Matthews says his firm has not withheld information
Food company boss Bernard Matthews has defended his firm following an outbreak of bird flu at one of his farms.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, he denied there had been any cover-up of the farm's links to Hungary, where the same strain of bird flu was found in geese.

Speaking for the first time since the crisis in Suffolk began, he said allegations that information may have been withheld were "completely untrue".

The H5N1 strain of bird flu was found at the Holton plant on 3 February.

Scientists have said the strain of H5N1 bird flu at Holton and that which infected geese in Hungary were "essentially identical".

Mr Matthews said: "I'm sorry for any confusion but this has not been of our making.

"There has been absolutely no cover-up at our end. I've been upset about allegations that we may have withheld information. That is completely untrue.

"Let me be absolutely clear - it's my name on the packet and I wouldn't let it go out to the shelves if I thought there was anything wrong with it.

"Avian flu is a threat not just to my business but to all those in my industry here and abroad. I know some of you will have ruled turkey off the menu and that is devastating to me."

Links investigated

Mr Matthews also emphasised that his farms in Hungary had not suffered from outbreaks of bird flu.

"The link to my business in Hungary is one that is being thoroughly investigated and we were originally told by the experts that the possibility of any link with Hungary had been dismissed.

"I want to stress there haven't been any reported incidents of avian flu on any of our farms in Hungary."

It's my name on the packet and I wouldn't let it go out to the shelves if I thought there was anything wrong with it
Bernard Matthews

Some Bernard Matthews turkey products have now been cleared by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to be released for sale.

The company had been voluntarily holding the products at cold stores in Chesterfield and at Holton in Suffolk, where the bird flu outbreak took place.

The first consignment of turkeys after the government gave the company the go-ahead to resume operations arrived at Bernard Matthews' Holton plant on Tuesday.

The turkeys came from more than 50 Bernard Matthews farms around the UK which were unaffected by an exclusion zone in Suffolk.

Deputy chief vet Fred Landeg said the most likely transmission route for the outbreak was from poultry to poultry and that no evidence of "illegal" movements of poultry products has been found.

The Bernard Matthews company has stressed the FSA's reassurance that "avian flu does not pose a food safety risk to UK consumers and properly-cooked poultry is perfectly safe to eat".

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