Bird Flu Outbreak Costs China £100m Each Day

Bird Flu Outbreak Costs China £100m Each Day

China's human H7N9 bird flu outbreak has cost the country's poultry industry more than £4.3bn as consumers shun chicken, government officials have said.

The sector has been losing an average of 1bn yuan (£100m) a day since the end of March, the Beijing Times said, citing Li Xirong, head of the National Animal Husbandry Service.

H7N9 avian influenza has infected 130 people in China, killing 35, since it was found in humans for the first time, according to latest official data.

Poultry sales have tumbled and prices plunged, Li said, causing major financial problems and job losses as a result.

Another agriculture ministry official, Wang Zongli, said government agencies should set a good example for the public by treating "poultry products in a correct way", the report added.

Avian flu has been discovered to spread quickly at live animal markets, which remain a mainstay in Chinese society.

In a stunt to boost confidence, officials and poultry business leaders in the eastern province of Shandong held a widely reported all-chicken lunch last week, according to Chinese media.

China has seen several food safety scares in recent years, including one in which the industrial chemical melamine was added to dairy products in 2008, killing at least six babies and making 300,000 ill.

Western firms have not remained immune to the bird flu woes in China.

KFC owner Yum! Brands, which also controls fast food names Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, has been hit by the growing Chinese wariness of poultry.

Although the flu does not affect cooked chicken, the issue has triggered an emotional response in Chinese consumers.

Yum!'s China division has seen a 41% fall in operating profit for the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period last year.

The Kentucky-based multinational saw its regional profit drop from \$258m (£175m) to \$154m (£115m) in the quarter.