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Free range eggs no longer available in the UK as avian flu outbreak continues

Compulsory bird housing measures have now been in place for more than 16 weeks as the UK battles its worst outbreak of avian flu to date.

Eggs in the UK will now be labelled as ‘barn eggs’ rather than free range as birds have been housed since 29th November to prevent the spread of avian influenza.

Poultry keepers who are required to house birds to protect public and animal health can retain their free-range status, as long as birds are not housed for more than 12 weeks for meat and 16 weeks for eggs.

This grace period, which is applied on a per-flock basis, ended in the UK on Monday 21st March. Free range labelling will not return until the housing measures are lifted.

A Defra spokesperson commented: “We are experiencing our largest ever outbreak of avian flu and housing measures remain in force to protect poultry and other birds from this highly infectious and unpleasant disease.

“We continue to provide support for the poultry sector throughout this challenging time. The 16-week grace period we allowed for free range eggs has now been exceeded, and eggs must now be marketed as ‘Barn Eggs’. We have worked closely with the sector and retailers to implement these changes as smoothly as possible.“

Defra said the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone requirements, including housing measures, will remain in force until further notice, but the measures are being kept under regular review.

New cases of avian influenza continue to be reported, with H5N1 confirmed in Woodbridge, Suffolk on Sunday (20th March), and at a premises near Strichen, Aberdeenshire on Saturday 19th.

There have now been more than 100 confirmed UK cases since the outbreak began in October 2021.

The risk of avian flu incursion in wild birds is currently classed as very high in England and high in Wales and Scotland, and the risk to poultry is medium with good biosecurity and high where there are substantial biosecurity breaches and poor biosecurity. If stringent biosecurity is in place the risk would be low for these premises.

For the latest situation and biosecurity advice visit: www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu#latest-situation

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