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Action call as Japan bans poultry


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Politicians are being urged to act against Japan which has banned poultry imports from Britain after an outbreak of bird flu at three Norfolk farms.

Japan said it was acting to stop bird flu spreading to its domestic bird population, even though it is the relatively harmless H7 virus.


Norfolk's Labour MEP Richard Howitt said the ban was illegal.


He has urged European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to take action against Japan over the ban.


Mr Howitt's urgent parliamentary question tabled in Brussels on Tuesday called on Mr Mandelson to challenge the legality of the Japanese ban under international trade rules.


He said he wanted Mr Mandelson to step in before other countries followed Japan's lead.


"We must challenge this ban now to stop other countries following suit," he said.


"We know how long the beef ban took to lift. If we don't nip this in the bud we could find ourselves denied access to valuable markets for many years to come."


He added: "Any ban appears totally unjustified under World Animal Health Organisation guidelines.


"The Norfolk outbreak has been confirmed through rigorous testing as the low pathogenic H7N3 strain rather than the more dangerous H5N1 bird flu."


'Protect industry'


Local veterinary and health officials had fully complied with European Commission biosecurity requirements in dealing with the outbreak, said Mr Howitt - and now the region expected Commission support in protecting a vital poultry industry worth £1 billion a year and that supported about 30,000 jobs in Norfolk.


British government officials are also expected to question the validity of such a ban under World Animal Health Organisation guidelines.


There was an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain in poultry in Japan in 2004, and of a less deadly H5 variant on farms near Tokyo last year.

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