Virus fears hitting poultry sales, says Sainsbury's

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The Independent Online

Sales of poultry have dipped at Sainsbury's in the past few days after reports that the virus had spread of to Romania and Turkey.

Although other retailers reported no change in sales, a shift at Britain's third biggest supermarket could herald a wider problem if the outbreak moves further towards western Europe. In Italy, the Italian farmers' confederation reported last week that sales had fallenby 30 to 40 per cent.

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's said: "We have seen a small impact on sales in the last few days. But obviously British chicken and turkey is no risk at the moment and we are keen to keep customer confidence high on that." Tesco, the biggest UK retailer, said there had been "no noticeable" change, while Asda and Waitrose reported flat sales.

The official advice is to continue eating chicken in Britain. The Food Standards Agency does not believe that the outbreak of avian flu in Europe poses a food safety risk in the UK.

In a statement, the agency said: "For people, the risk of catching the disease comes from being in close contact with live poultry that have the disease and not through eating poultry. There have been no reports of people handling poultry meat getting infected."

The National Farmers' Union said wholesale prices had been holding up, indicating that the shops were showing "good faith" towards poultry suppliers.

A spokesman for the NFU said: "At the moment this is primarily a disease of birds. There is no danger from eating poultry."