Fourth outbreak of birdflu leads to cull of French 'foie gras' ducks

·2-min read

The fourth outbreak of bird flu in a month has been reported south-western France, with two sites for breeding ducks and chickens identified within an area already under surveillance, according to local authorities. France is among several EU countries forced to cull their livestock in recent weeks to curb the spread of the disease.

It's the second cluster of the H5N8 virus reported in the Landes area, near the town of Saint-Geours de Maremne. It falls within a “protection zone” established by local authorities earlier this month after two other outbreaks of bird flu were reported.

The first was on 8 December in Benesse-Maremne, the second on 9 December in Saint-Geours de Maremne, and then 12 December in Angresse. The four areas are within a ten-kilometre radius of one another.

A preventative cull was carried out in two phases, according to local authorities, the first for ducks that were being prepared for foie gras - France's world-famous paté, followed by other animals.

In a separate development, on Monday; two other farms also reported cases of bird flu. One in Saint-Maurice-des-Noues in Vendée in the west of the country and Saint-Sauveur in Deux-Sèvres (central western region).

Duck breeders in southwestern France have been hit twice in recent years, sparking mass culls that cost producers hundreds of millions of euros.

No danger to consumers

French officials insisted there was no need for people to change their habits.

"The consumption of meat, foie gras and eggs - and more generally of any food product - does not present any risk to humans," the Agriculture ministry said.

This year, the sector is also struggling with declining orders for the Christmas period due to the Covid-19 lockdowns which have force the closure of restaurants.

Elsewhere, Norwegian authorities said they would introduce a regional ban on keeping poultry outside after a case of bird flu was confirmed in a wild bird.

This after a case of H5N8 was confirmed in a wild goose in the western Sandnes municipality in November.

France's agriculture ministry has also ordered national protection measures including obligatory confinement of poultry to isolate them from wild birds.

The virus has also appeared in recent weeks in Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Ireland and Britain among other countries, leading to mass culls.

Dutch officials said earlier this month they had culled more than 200,000 birds.