Bird-flu latest - Business as usual for BM

Bernard Matthews has said it is "business as usual" following the confirmation of avian influenza (AI) at its farm in Suffolk over the weekend and the cull of 160,000 turkeys which is due to be completed today.

Bart Dalla Mura, commercial director of Bernard Matthews, said the next few days would determine whether consumer confidence remained firm.

He said: "We don't expect a deep consumer reaction so it remains to be seen in the next couple of days.

"As far as we're concerned it's business as usual. It was one shed. There is no sign of any ill health anywhere else and we should just progress on. As far as Defra and everyone else is concerned it is contained."

He added: "There is absolutely no risk to human health."

Defra has imposed a 3km protection zone around Holton farm near Lowestoft and a 10km surveillance zone, which means poultry must be kept indoors and not moved. A wider restriction zone covers east Suffolk and south-east Norfolk and requires the isolation of poultry from wild birds and movements of poultry only under license.

A local vet was called to the farm last Tuesday after birds started to fall ill. By Thursday over 800 turkeys had died and Defra was informed. By Saturday the highly pathonogenic H5N1 strain of AI had been confirmed and gas chambers were brought in to destroy all the birds on the farm. The carcases are being transported to Staffordshire for incineration.

Richard Griffiths, senior executive officer at the British Poultry Council (BPC), said: "All the appropriate responses are being taken, the zones are in place and the movement restrictions are in place and none of the birds from the farm entered the food chain and there is absolutely no risk to consumers."

Poultry farmers who had contacted the BPC were not panicking, he said: "We have spoken to a number of them. In the region concerned it has been surprisingly smooth. There's obviously going to be concern but I think things are moving along quite smoothly.

"Everybody, industry and government are confident this can be contained within the farm of the outbreak and there's no signs as yet this has spread, Confidence is high," he said.

Keepers of birds in the area are encouraged to be vigilant and exercise good bio-security, but Defra has emphasised the risk to the general public is virtually nil and consumers of poultry are not at risk.