Scotland bird flu: MPs to discuss how to manage avian flu to guarantee enough turkeys for Christmas dinners

How farmers struggling to cope with the UK’s worst ever outbreak of bird flu can ensure there are enough turkeys available for Christmas dinner this year is just one of the subjects to be discussed at a special hearing into the impacts of the disease being held at Westminster.

MPs on the environment, food and rural affairs committee are to look into the effects of the avian influenza epidemic and how it might be controlled during a session to be held on November 29.

The highly contagious virus has swept through wild populations across the country, killing countless birds of a range of species and decimating globally important seabird colonies in Scotland.

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More than 200 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the UK since October last year, with fears of a further escalation of incidents on commercial farms and among domestically kept birds.

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The UK Government has ordered that all poultry should be kept indoors and a number of other biosecurity measures should be implemented in a bid to control the spread of avian flu. There are concerns the outbreak could result in rocketing prices and shortages of poultry, including turkeys, in the run-up to the festive season.

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said farmers who raise turkeys, geese or ducks for the Christmas market will have the option of slaughtering their flocks early, freezing them, then defrosting the product for sale over the festive period. This option, Government officials said, would give businesses a greater degree of certainty in their planning.

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The committee will be looking at the effect of the outbreak on the poultry sector and the support available; the impact on wild birds, especially key species; the causes of the outbreak and effectiveness of efforts to tackle it; and how availability and prices of poultry products could be hit.

The UK Health Security Agency has advised the risk to human public health from the virus is very low and the UK Food Standards Agency has stated that bird flu poses a very low threat to food safety in the UK.

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A new hearing is being held to examining the impacts and handling of the UK's worst ever outbreak of bird flu, which has raised concern over the prices and availability of poultry such as turkey over the festive season
This gannet was found washed up on the beach at Dunbar in the summer - a suspected victim of avian infuenza. Picture: Ilona Amos

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