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Crackdown call on perilous poultry products

Kedgley calls for crackdown on perilous poultry products

Green MP Sue Kedgley is calling on New Zealand to follow the example of the European Union and ban all imports of poultry products from countries affected by the dangerous new variant of bird flu sweeping Asia.

"The Ministry of Health has been reported as claiming that New Zealand doesn't import poultry products," said Ms Kedgley. "In fact we imported over 100,000 tonnes of poultry products last year and more than a quarter of that came from countries affected by the current outbreak of bird flu.

"China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam are all suffering outbreaks of avian influenza and they are all countries from whom we import poultry products. Of particular concern are products such as skin, feathers and down which are not sterilized.

"The EU has prudently adopted a safety-first approach, despite assessing the risk of importing the virus in meat products as very low. The Europeans have recognized the huge potential danger of the rapidly mutating virus and have introduced precautionary measures and we should too.

Ms Kedgley noted that at least eight people had so far died in the Asian outbreak, with new cases coming in all the time.

"While New Zealanders can take some comfort in the knowledge that, so far, we have wisely resisted allowing the importation of live chickens into New Zealand, if the virus ever reached new Zealand it could spread rapidly through our chicken factories where millions of chickens are raised in intensive and overcrowded conditions."

Ms Kedgley said the shocking revelations that two of country's largest salmon companies were feeding their fish ground-up chicken feathers imported from Chile and Australia showed just how easy it was for poultry products to enter the food chain without the public being aware of it.

"It's also of concern that Thailand, one of the countries most affected by the bird flu, is the source of a significant amount of our pet food, which includes chicken products.

"It is urgent that New Zealand suspend all poultry products from the countries where this dangerous and unpredictable strain of bird flu has taken hold," said Ms Kedgley.

"Not only are New Zealand's overcrowded chicken factories particularly susceptible to an Asian-style disaster but the human population would be at serious risk, if the virus reaches here."

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