France to cull ‘millions’ more poultry as bird flu flares

France will drastically step up the culling of chickens, ducks and other poultry to  contain a bird flu outbreak worse than last winter's, the agriculture ministry said on Friday.

France to cull 'millions' more poultry as bird flu flares
Culling at a duck farm in south west France. Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP

It is the fourth major flu epidemic for French poultry farms since 2015, mainly in the country’s southwest, home to the lucrative yet controversial foie gras liver pate.

By wiping out the populations where the virus is spreading, officials hope to shorten the outbreak and prevent it from reaching other poultry-raising regions

Over four million birds had already been culled this year before the outbreak spread to western France over the past two weeks, especially the Vendée department along the Atlantic coast.

The Vendée is considered “strategic” by the ministry because many farms raise birds exclusively for breeding, so clearing the latest virus from the zone is key “for a recovery of activities once it has been sanitised.”

Nearly 190 infected sites have been detected in the department, up from just 74 on Sunday, the ministry said.

“We estimate there are still three million animals that must be culled” in the region, the ministry said.

So far 611 infected sites have been detected overall, surpassing the outbreak of last year, when nearly 500 sites were found requiring the culling of 3.5 million birds.

Quarantine measures have been taken against the virus, and farmers are compensated by the government for losses that can reach millions of euros.

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Kinder pulls 3,000 tonnes of products after salmonella cases

Children in nine European countries, including 81 in France, were affected

Kinder pulls 3,000 tonnes of products after salmonella cases

More than 3,000 tonnes of Kinder products have been withdrawn from the market over salmonella fears leaving a dent of tens of millions of euros, a company official has told France’s Le Parisien.

Nicolas Neykov, the head of Ferrero France, said the contamination came “from a filter located in a vat for dairy butter”, at a factory in Arlon in Belgium.

He said the contamination could have been caused by humans or raw materials.

Chocolate products made at the factory in Arlon, southeastern Belgium, were found to contain salmonella, resulting in 150 cases in nine European countries.

Eighty-one of these were in France, mainly affecting children under 10 years old.

The factory’s closure and the health concerns were blows to its owner, Italian confectionery giant Ferrero, coming at the height of the Easter holiday season when its Kinder chocolates are sought-after supermarket buys.

“This crisis is heartbreaking. It’s the biggest removal of products in the last 20 years,” Neykov said.

But the company hoped to be able to start up the factory again, with 50 percent of health and safety inspections to be carried out by an approved “external laboratory” in the future, instead of the previous system of only internal reviews.

“We have asked for a reopening from June 13 to relaunch production as soon as possible,” he added.