Australia reports deadly bird flu case

paris / reuters Australia has reported its first case of a highly pathogenic bird flu virus in 15 years.

So far 5,000 poultry have died at an infected egg farm in Maitland, 160 kilometres north of Sydney, but 50,000 birds are at risk.

The virus is different from the deadly H5N1 strain, found in 1997 in Hong Kong, that devastated duck and chicken operations and caused hundreds of deaths.

It is of the “H7” strain but the exact type hasn’t yet been determined. At least one type this strain, the H7N7 subtype, can infect people and even kill but the impact on humans usually tends to be mild, the World Health Organization said.

The farm has been placed under quarantine as experts try to find the source of the virus, which is often wild birds.

Food safety bill passes, drafting of regulations begins

The recent passage of the Safe Food for Canadians Act means the overhaul of Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations will now begin in earnest.

The new act provides tougher penalties for food safety violations (up to $5 million — a twentyfold increase) and will allow inspectors to “compel food producers to provide information in a timely manner and standardized format,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

It will also give the CFIA the authority to require traceability systems for food producers and processors; provide better control over imports and exports; and allow for faster and more comprehensive food recalls.

Opposition critics praised the bill but said it would have been even better if the government had given farmers and food processors more time to raise specific concerns.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture identified six areas of concern, including how farmers will be regulated, requirements for livestock traceability and protection of confidential business information.

Ritz promised the CFIA would consult fully with the industry before any regulations are finalized.

The industry is concerned that once regulations are made, it takes two years to change them, said Keith Mussar, vice-president of regulatory affairs of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters.

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