Bird flu is not expected to affect this year’s Christmas turkey supplies, despite an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain at a Lincolnshire farm last week, poultry industry leaders have suggested. 

Defra confirmed on Friday (16 December), that it had imposed a 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone around the farm to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

However, there was “no threat to Christmas turkeys”, said British Poultry Council CEO Richard Griffiths, who added the FSA had “made clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers”.

More than 5,000 birds were affected on the farm - believed to be run by an independent farmer in the fenland areas of Lincolnshire. However, most had already died from the avian influenza outbreak, Defra said, with the remainder having been humanely culled.

“There is not anticipated to be any impact on the supplies of turkeys or other birds over Christmas,” added Defra in a statement. 

“Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low,” said chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens.

“Bird keepers should remain alert for any signs of disease, report suspected disease immediately and ensure they are maintaining good biosecurity on their premises. We are urgently looking for any evidence of disease spread associated with this farm to control and eliminate it.”

The outbreak comes less than a fortnight after Defra imposed a prevention zone for poultry and captive birds in response to a series of outbreaks of the H5N8 avian influenza strain across Europe.

The zone requires keepers of poultry and captive birds to keep them indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds, until 6 January, and to reinforce biosecurity measures on their premises.

The prevention zone had led Bernard Matthews to bolster controls on its farms, including cancelling all farm visits to manage anu potential risk. However, this did not affect ”the business’ ability to deliver a great Christmas for our customers”, said a spokesman for the supplier.