Temporary Advice for Caterers: Avian Influenza and Free-Range Poultry

In December 2016, the UK Government established Prevention Zones to prevent the spread of Avian Influenza, including a housing order for poultry. Over this winter, 9 cases of Avian influenza H5N8 have been found in wild and farmed birds in the UK. Public Health England advises that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for UK consumers.

The Prevention Zones mean that flocks that are usually allowed access to range, have been housed to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Under EU regulations there is a 12-week derogation which allows producers to market products as free range, if they have met all the criteria except being able to roam free. Both the EU derogation and the Avian Influenza Prevention Zones are due to expire on 28th February, at that point:

  • If the order is lifted, then poultry can be let out onto the range area.
  • If the order is not lifted, then poultry will remain housed. This would mean the flock cannot legally be called “free-range” and product labelling will have to change to reflect this.

What does this mean for your free-range supply?

A proportion of the free-range eggs may have to be reclassified as “barn eggs”, although these flocks will not be able to go outside the cost of producing the product remains the same and producers are not benefiting through the birds not having access to range.

What should you do if the order is not lifted on 28th February?

From the 28th February egg boxes in retail outlets will carry stickers to show the change in classification to barn status, and retailers will have point of sale material informing consumers of the changes.

For caterers listing free range eggs or poultry on their menus, a temporary notice may be needed to communicate this change to the consumer.

Check with your supplier whether their free-range supply has been affected. If so, point-of-order information can be displayed to inform your customer of temporary barn arrangement.

For further guidance you can access the NFU Avian Influenza Briefing here: http://www.bha.org.uk/ai-brief-for-foodservice-nfu/

For more information please contact Gabriella Bittante, BHA Policy Manager, gabriella@bha.org.uk.

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