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Danish food council replies to FairPlay on bird flu

Last week’s article on the rise in European Union (EU) poultry exports despite widespread bird flu outbreaks has drawn a response from one of the countries involved.

FairPlay noted the increase in EU exports to African and Caribbean countries while most EU producer countries had suffered bird flu outbreaks.

We asked whether the EU could “provide assurances that these shipments do not include chicken from countries affected by bird flu, and particularly not from poultry producers where outbreaks have been noted”.

The answer came from Stig Munck Larsen, chief counsellor, trade & market relations at the Danish Agriculture and Food Council in Copenhagen.

Essentially he said that in terms of guidelines set by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), areas affected by avian influenza (AI) were isolated and cleaned, but trade, consumption and poultry exports could continue from producers in the rest of the country.

“This is fully and strictly controlled by the EU and the EU members and third countries are always informed about any outbreak if this compromises the agreed export certificate.

“The same OIE principles apply in South Africa as well as local/domestic poultry from outside the areas of AI is still sold and consumed. South Africa also still exports poultry meat in case of AI outbreaks if it does not compromise the content of the export certificate,” he said.

He concluded with a comment about South Africa’s application of bird flu bans against countries where outbreaks have occurred.

“In the case of South Africa they are obliged to open for imports 3 months after a country is free of AI. I can inform you that this is not happening despite their international obligation stated in the OIE guideline (which has now been shortened from 3 months to 28 days). It’s up to you if this is FairPlay,” he said.

Without any specifics, the Danish reply was loaded with accusations that the FairPlay article was “fake news” or “allegations that are not documented, pure fiction or manipulated”.

Larsen also accused us of not being fair to the EU, and of “seeking to discredit the EU and EU poultry production and export”. 

Let’s take the last accusation first. FairPlay has stated previously that the EU should be, and usually is, a force for good in trade relations with other countries. One exception is poultry, where dumped EU exports have done huge harm to poultry industries, particularly in Africa.

Larsen gave no details of what he regarded as fake news or unfounded allegations. The article was based on official EU export statistics, which showed a rise in EU poultry exports even as bird flu swept across numerous EU countries. We have previously noted that EU over-production has led to phenomenal growth in EU poultry exports to Africa in the past two years.

The carefully worded response that “EU members and third countries are always informed about any (bird flu) outbreak if this compromises the agreed export certificate” only partially satisfies our concerns.