Today in the USA
High alert as bird flu is back
AI hits breeder flock
The spectre of bird flu has sent tremors through the US poultry breeders as an outbreak of H7 avian influenza has been found in a commercial chicken breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee. The farm supplies poultry to meat giant Tyson Foods.
This ominous development
is first confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in commercial poultry in the United States this year, and the USDA has started a comprehensive epidemiological investigation in surrounding areas together with enhanced surveillance and testing. Several days after this outbreak, the low pathogenic H5N2 strain was detected on a farm in Wisconsin, more than 900 kilometres from Tennessee.
In keeping with existing avian influenza response plans, the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) says the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, together with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, are responding to the identification of the highly pathogenic avian influenza H7 of north American wild bird lineage detection in a chicken broiler breeder flock. Further virus characterization including N-type is pending.
The affected premises have been quarantined by authorities and movement controls have been implemented. Approximately 700 birds on the farm died from the infection, while a further 72 000 were later culled.
Don’t ban us pleads US
Following the first outbreak of bird flu in the country in more than a year, large Asian poultry importers have been asked not to ban imports of US poultry.
The plea by the USA’S Poultry Egg Exporters Council for these countries to adopt a regionalised or compartmentalised stance towards US imports follows moves by Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to limit US poultry imports. This would mean that import bans would only be enforced on products originating from states where bird flu is present, while others yet unaffected would still be free to export globally.
Japan and Hong Kong have both imposed some restrictions, Taiwan has completely banned all poultry imports from Tennessee, while South Korea has banned all cooked poultry and egg products, including hatching eggs and day-old chicks.
What’s in a label?
The discussion over hormones in poultry products continues unabated in the US, although a local scientific association has labelled hormone-free poultry claims as misleading.
The American Association Aviana Pathologists says the debate on which kind of chicken is healthier and safer for consumers - the brand with the no-nonsense label or the premium brand that claims its chickens were “raised without added hormones” – is pointless, as it makes no difference at all. The reason? It’s simply that chickens don’t receive added hormones anyway.
“Even though some poultry products may state they are ‘raised without added hormones’ on the label, you can have confidence that all products, so labelled or not, are in fact raised without added hormones,” the association said.
The AAAP says the modern poultry industry has never used hormones or steroids to raise commercial broilers, turkeys or egg layers.
“In fact, no hormones or steroids are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in poultry, and doing so via the water, feed or injection is specifically prohibited by law.”
Fast food company Subway has vehemently rejected claims by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation suggesting its chicken is “roughly half soy”, saying its own tests have found less than 1% soy in its product. Soy is used to help maintain moisture and texture.
Subway says the claim that its white meat was only 50% chicken was “100% wrong”, baseless and misleading.
“We only use chicken, with added spices, seasoning and marinade,” the company says.¡