Free range eggs return to shelves after first case of human bird flu in UK

The stay-at-home order for poultry has been lifted, meaning free-range eggs will finally be back on supermarket shelves after more than a month. Farmers in some parts of the country have been ordered to keep all their birds indoors since November.

Farm raw fresh egg in pack on gray table
Free range eggs will be back on store shelves in the UK within days

Free-range eggs are expected to return to supermarket shelves thereafter more than a month when the government lifted a ban on keeping birds indoors.

The ban applies to some parts of the country since Novemberwhen poultry farmers found they had to cull up a million birds due to the outbreak of the rapidly spreading H5N1, also known as bird flu. During the outbreak, farmers were ordered to keep all their birds indoors to prevent the spread of bird flu.

The ban on free-range poultry led to a widespread shortage of free-range eggs, as the chicken farms that produce the eggs couldn’t legally say their birds were allowed to roam free. This led to some products being referred to as “barn eggs”, which used to mean free range chickens that were now kept indoors.

A Devon man kept part of his flock of over 160 Muscovy ducks at his home during this period, leading to him becoming the Brit very first bird-to-human Avian Flu Case. All 160 ducks were destroyed and the man received a ban keeping poultry for a year.

Alan Gosling has become the first person in the UK to contract a new strain of bird flu



Although these restrictions have now been lifted by the UK Health Authority, measures are still being taken to prevent the transmission of bird fluincluding a ban on poultry markets and restricting public access to poultry farms.

Christine Middlemiss, UK Chief Veterinary Officer, said: “While the lifting of mandatory housing measures will be welcome news for bird keepers, conscientious biosecurity remains the most important form of defense to protect your birds.

“It is thanks to the hard work of all the bird keepers and veterinarians who have done their part to keep the flocks safe this winter that we are able to take this action.

“However, recent cases of avian influenza show that it is vitally important that bird keepers remain vigilant for signs of disease and adhere to strict biosecurity standards.”

Paddy Bourns, owner of luxury Cotswolds-based Cacklebean Eggs, a supplier to top restaurants across the country, said supermarket shoppers could see their free-range eggs returning to shelves as early as this week. Producers are allowed to label their eggs as “free range” once they are released from a barn.

Paddy said: “Once the birds are indoors they are more difficult to care for and care for, so I’m sure a lot of farmers are happier now that their chickens have a better area to roam around in.

“My whole family got up at 6:30 yesterday to let the birds out, it was a long time for these birds so the first few were cautious and had to lead the way for the rest of the flock.

“Just like us humans, when we were in lockdown and had to stay inside, it was a big moment for the chickens to finally get outside.

“We raise birds here, so for some of them it was their first outdoor experience.”

Paddy’s advice to consumers who are wondering what their free range eggs might be like is: “Research it, look into it, it takes less than five minutes to google where the eggs are coming from.” If all you see is a big shed, it’s probably not very free range.”

What are the symptoms of bird flu in humans?

Symptoms of bird flu include headaches and a very high temperature


(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Avian flu is a form of influenza that can affect humans.

According to the NHSAvian influenza can be transmitted to humans by touching, dropping, littering or killing infected birds, or cooking.

If bird flu is suspected the NHS says that the most common symptoms are:

  • A very high temperature or feeling hot or chills
  • Muscle cramp
  • headache
  • cough or shortness of breath

These symptoms can often appear very quickly and are not the only ones associated with the virus. Other associated symptoms are:

  • Diarrhea
  • illness
  • stomach pain
  • chest pain
  • bleeding from the nose and gums
  • conjunctivitis

How is bird flu transmitted?

The virus can spread to humans by touching infected birds


VCG via Getty Images)

Cases of avian influenza in humans usually only occur with very close contact with certain animals, such as birds and horses, and this is only the case with certain strains of the virus.

According to the NHS , there are three main routes by which the virus can spread to humans. They are:

  • touch infected birds
  • Touch feces or litter
  • Killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking

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Fry Electronics Team

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