France found a case of deadly bird flu in the foie gras production region of Perigord, in the country’s southwest.
The H5N1 strain of avian influenza was confirmed in a flock of about 30 backyard poultry in the village of Biras, said Christian Moreau, a spokesman for the Dordogne prefecture, which includes the Perigord region. The birds have been culled and a security perimeter set up around the village, he said.
Bird flu and measures to contain it, including mass culls, can decimate poultry production. A U.S. outbreak eliminated about 48 million fowl, mostly layer hens, in the first half of the year. The Aquitaine region that includes Dordogne is France’s biggest producer of foie gras, the luxury food made from the liver of fattened ducks or geese.
“The perimeter has been established, we have to eradicate the virus but the situation is under control,” Moreau said. “There are quite a few foie gras producers in Dordogne.”
The outbreak is the first of this type since 2007, the Agriculture Ministry said. The strain is highly pathogenic to poultry, and French food-safety agency Anses will evaluate the potential risk to humans, according to the ministry.
While the cause of the outbreak is not yet known, H5N1 is generally spread by wild birds, Moreau said.
The case comes before the festive season that accounts for peak foie gras consumption in France, with December accounting for about half of households’ annual purchases of the delicacy. That’s left Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll at pains to explain the virus is no danger to diners.
“This virus has no effect in terms of consumption on poultry meat and anything that comes from poultry,” Le Foll told reporters at a meeting Wednesday. “I repeat, there is no risk in that sense.”
Authorities have set up a 3-kilometer (1.9 mile) protection perimeter around Biras and a 10-kilometer surveillance zone, according to the ministry. Monitoring of farms as well as wild animals will be strengthened.
French foie gras production rose 1.3 percent last year to 19,300 metric tons, the ministry estimates. Aquitaine produced 50,676 tons of fattened ducks in 2013, about a third of France’s output, as well as 790 tons of fattened geese, or 40 percent of the national total, government statistics show.