Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has suspended poultry imports and eggs from Australia following the bird flu outbreak in Victoria earlier this week.
“Japan has implemented a temporary suspension on imports of live poultry, eggs, poultry meat and poultry meat products from Australia,” the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry told FoodNavigator-Asia.
It added that “Hong Kong has temporarily suspended imports of these commodities from the affected area, Victoria.”
This overarching suspension from Japan comes despite confirmation that chicken meat is safe and unaffected from the Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF).
Andreas Dubs, executive director of the ACMF, said that this suspension was an over-reaction and out of proportion as the virus is very localised and low risk.
Akihito Furata, Agriculture Ministry official for the government of Japan, told this publication that the import restriction has been put in place to prevent Japan’s poultry from avian influenza, “not on food safety or human health grounds.”
“The suspension of the import taken by Japan is based on agreed animal health requirements between the government of Australia and the government of Japan,” Furata added.
He noted outbreaks of avian influenza in other Asia Pacific countries like Korea, Taiwan and India had prompted similar import restrictions.
The outbreak of the Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) virus was found on two free-range duck farms in the state of Victoria last week and authorities gassed all 25,000 ducks on both farms.
Victoria’s Department of Primary Industries (DPI) identified the LPAI subtype H5 virus on January 27.
Dr Andrew Cameron, chief veterinary officer at DPI said that this strain of virus is currently relatively harmless.
However, a DPI spokesperson said further work is under way to more fully characterise the virus and that “tracing and surveillance activities are still under way” to determine if any affected produce was distributed from the farm prior to the virus being identified.
He added that there was “increasing strong evidence that the virus had not spread,” and that presently this incident remains confined to two farms.