Further to my statement of 12 November, High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza continues to circulate in the UK and Europe. There are now eight confirmed cases in England in kept birds and a large number of findings in wild birds across 19 counties.
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.
Given the high risk of incursion to captive birds we are adding a housing measure to the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ). This will take effect from 14 December. It will require all keepers to house their birds or otherwise keep them separate from wild birds. Keepers have until 14 December to ready their birds for housing.
The addition of the housing measure has been co-ordinated with the Devolved Administrations and Scottish and Welsh Governments are introducing a similar measure. In practical terms, this means the additional requirement to house birds applies to the whole of Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, as in GB, there is an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in place and the case for further measures on housing is kept under review.
There are rules covering the free range sector in these circumstances. Eggs may continue to be marketed as free range providing the birds are not housed continuously for more than 16 weeks. There are similar rules for poultry meat for 12 weeks. Eggs or poultry can continue to be marketed as organic regardless of this additional housing requirement.
The key to protecting the sector and reducing the risk of further increase in cases is for all keepers to adopt the highest possible standard of biosecurity.
We continue to urge bird keepers to be vigilant for any signs of disease, ensure they maintain their biosecurity, seek prompt advice from their vet and report suspect disease to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), as they must do by law.
We strongly advise keepers to register on the Poultry Register so as to receive notifications and disease alerts. This is mandatory for all those with flocks over 50 birds. Registration is easy and can be found at: www.gov.uk/guidance/bird-gatherings-licences .
Officials examine the evidence about the risk on a daily basis and review their risk assessment at least once a month. The need to keep the housing requirement in place will therefore be continually under review.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords