Defra has played down health fears after an outbreak of avian flu in a flock of free-range laying hens.

All the birds on the farm in Banbury have been slaughtered and there is no risk of the H7 strain entering the food chain, Defra stressed. "Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat," said Dr Judith Hilton, head of microbiological safety at the FSA. "The science shows the virus isn't contracted by eating food - but usually by close contact with infected birds."

A spokeswoman for the British Egg Council said consumers should not be put off buying eggs following the outbreak.