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Poultry producer gets flu compensation

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LONDON— Bernard Matthews Ltd. is to receive just under £600,000 ($1.2 million) from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by way of compensation for the cull of 160,000 turkeys amid an avian influenza scare.

While it is understood that there is no insurance cover on offer for H5N1, DEFRA has made the award of £589,356.89 ($1.18 million) under the terms of the Animal Health Act 1981 for the healthy birds that were compulsorily killed to prevent the spread of H5N1 avian influenza.

In a statement, DEFRA said that, "the rules requiring payment for property destroyed are for disease prevention purposes. They act as an incentive to report disease early. Early reporting is essential to preventing disease spread, which would result in a far higher cost to the taxpayer."

DEFRA has also said that it is "working with the industry" on legislation to establish "an animal disease levy." The idea behind this is to, "create an appropriate balance between what the taxpayer and industry are responsible for in relation to animal health and disease outbreaks."

In January 2007, H5N1 avian influenza was found on one of the company's farms in Holton, Suffolk, England, and so Europe's largest turkey producer was forced to cull 160,000 birds in a bid to halt the spread of the disease.

DEFRA has published its final epidemiology report into the outbreak, and "no specific proven source has been found." Though DEFRA "concludes that the most plausible explanation is that infection was introduced to Britain via the importation of turkey meat from Hungary."

A spokesman for Bernard Matthews said that the company has "already taken precautionary measures to enhance biosecurity," including the suspension of imports from countries that have tested positive for avian flu and the disinfection of all vehicles entering and leaving Bernard Matthews' Holton site.