UK: Avian Flu - implications for UK businesses

Last Updated: 10 March 2006
Article by Mark Tyler and Jessica Burt

There is currently a real threat of an outbreak of Avian Influenza (AI) in the UK and many businesses will be affected. For those involved with the bird industry - primary producers, food processors and retailers - there are a number of issues to be addressed now to both limit and manage risk. Additionally, all businesses should consider the risk of an influenza pandemic affecting humans and review their business continuity planning and health and safety obligations as employers accordingly.

To read more on the issues to be addresses, please see below:

Full Article

There is currently a real threat of an outbreak of Avian Influenza (AI) in the UK and many businesses will be affected. For those involved with the bird industry - primary producers, food processors and retailers - there are a number of issues to be addressed now to both limit and manage risk. Additionally, all businesses should consider the risk of an influenza pandemic affecting humans and review their business continuity planning and health and safety obligations as employers accordingly. Read more.

Primary Producers

Protection/containment of birds:

  • The Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has recommended that bird keepers have the capacity to house all their birds in the event of an outbreak of AI. If containment is not possible, consider measures (e.g. netting) to enforce separation of wild and domestic birds or at the very least, to protect the feed and water of domestic birds.


  • Under the Diseases of Poultry (England) Order 2003 the UK Government has the power to impose compulsory vaccination in the event of an outbreak;
  • Considerations regarding availability and efficacy of vaccination.

Updating health and safety procedures:

  • Ensure risk assessments and emergency procedures are up to date and suitable for a possible outbreak;
  • Review hygiene provisions and ensure availability and use of suitable personal protective equipment for employees;
  • Consider any need or requirement to restrict access to infected birds or areas.

Poultry Register:

  • All commercial poultry farmers with over 50 birds are legally obliged to register with the Great Britain Poultry Register. This information will also provide for DEFRA to give information and advice to farmers in the event of an outbreak.

Supply Chain:

  • Potential fall in demand due to consumer avoidance of bird products may lead to surplus stock; alternatively the inability to fulfil contracts if birds infected. Consider review of supply contract terms to assess contractual protection;
  • Possible import and export requirements and restrictions.


  • The UK Government will have the power to order slaughter of birds in the event of an AI outbreak. Where farmers are ordered to slaughter birds, compensation is likely to be available only for those birds that are found not to have been infected.


  • DEFRA has indicated that the preferred method of disposal for dead birds will be incineration and rendering and where this is not possible, the use of licensed landfills.
  • DEFRA has emergency powers pursuant to which it can effectively commandeer landfills for disposal. As assessment may be required relating to the risks involved and which of these will rest with the landfill operator.
  • Consider provision of relevant protective clothing and equipment for employees handling dead birds and infected material.
  • If infected birds and bird products are to be transported from farms to waste disposal sites, it is likely that there will be an increased demand for licensed hazardous waste carriers.

Food Processors/Own Branders


  • Consider possible affected products and whether alternative sources are suitable and available;
  • Due diligence of suppliers – ensure suppliers are following government best practice;
  • Quality control and testing of ingredients for infection;
  • Possible supply chain difficulties due to reduction in demand or supply; review supply contract terms.

Hygiene requirements:

  • Ensure Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and hygiene procedures are in place and regularly updated.

Customer service:

  • Ensure availability of information and responses to consumer questions, as well as rapid response and investigation of complaints;
  • Consider any risk to brand.


  • Ensure risk management policy is in place and regularly reviewed;
  • There is an obligation when a food business operator considers there to have been a breach of food safety requirements, in a food that has left its immediate control, to notify the competent authority and implement measures to withdraw the food from the market.

Consumer information:

  • Ensure availability of relevant information for consumers and review response system for consumer queries and complaints.


  • Businesses should review insurance policies to determine what loses related to AI are insured.


"Free-range" marketing:

  • Under EC Egg and Poultry marketing regulations, bird meat and eggs may keep their free-range status and still be marketed as such for up to 12 weeks from the date of any containment order. Retailers will therefore need to consider the wording of any related promotional statements.

Supply chain:

  • Possible supply chain disruption due to fall in consumer demand and/or lack of supply. Consider review of supply contract terms;
  • Consider availability and appropriateness of alternative products;
  • Supplier due diligence to ensure following government best practice.


  • Ensure procedures are in place in the event of need to withdraw or recall any products due to contamination.

Consumer information:

  • Ensure availability of relevant information for consumers and review response system for consumer queries and complaints.


  • Review insurance policies to determine what losses related to AI are insured.

Read more on business continuity planning

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 09/03/2006.

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