Idaho Avian Flu Outbreak Gives Californians Wake-Up Call

CALIFORNIA – Reports of an avian influenza outbreak in Idaho over the weekend are another reminder to California voters of the dangers of Proposition 2 [Prop. 2], said Californians for SAFE Food.
calendar icon 10 September 2008
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Californians for SAFE Food is a coalition of public health and food safety experts, labour unions, consumers, family farmers and veterinarians. It says that as first reported by Associated Press (AP) and picked up in California newspapers statewide (San Jose Mercury News), Idaho Department of Agriculture officials quarantined a Boise bird farm after a strain of bird flu was identified. The virus at the Idaho farm was classified as the H5N8 strain. According to the AP, the birds were kept in an outside pen area and could have been exposed to the virus through droppings from a wild bird flying or roosting overhead.

"The infected birds in Idaho were kept in an uncontrolled, outdoor area that allowed for increased exposure to migratory birds which are known to carry the Bird Flu virus. This environment is similar to the one proposed by the proponents of Prop. 2," said Julie Buckner, spokeswoman for Californians for SAFE Food. "Prop. 2 recklessly bans the modern, sanitary and clean housing systems used by most California egg farmers and instead mandates a system that hazardously exposes egg-laying hens in California to direct contact with migratory birds from out-of-state and overseas which undermines our public health and safety."

Nearly all California egg farmers currently adhere to the toughest, most stringent food safety standards in the U.S. under the California Egg Quality Assurance Plan (CEQAP), which requires that California egg farms use the most modern, safe and sanitary housing systems that ensure optimal feed, light, air, water, space and sanitation for egg-laying hens. Prop. 2 recklessly and arbitrarily eliminates this safe and practical system ignoring the negative impact on both the animals and humans.

"The Idaho outbreak should be a wake up call that systems that allow commercial flocks to be exposed to migratory birds are impractical, dangerous and can directly lead to further Bird Flu outbreaks," said Nancy Reimers, DVM, MSpVM, Diplomate – American College of Poultry Veterinarians. "Studies prove that indoor bird housing systems virtually eliminate bird flu infections. Highly pathogenic Avian Influenza viruses are a tragedy for poultry and we have to do our best to protect the birds and ourselves."

On August 26, 2008, The Times of India reported, "The bird flu virus, that caused India's worst Avian Influenza (AI) outbreak this year, has been found to be 'a lot similar' to the one that created havoc in Bangladesh. The article went on to note, "The H5N1 outbreak that broke out in West Bengal in January this year spread to nearly 13 of the state's 19 districts. The H5N1 virus was first detected in Bangladesh in March 2007. Since then, over 47 of the country's 64 districts had been affected by bird flu."

Proposition 2 is a risky, dangerous and costly measure banning almost all modern egg production in California. Proposition 2 jeopardizes food safety and public health, wipes out Californians' access to locally grown, fresh eggs, and harms consumers by driving up prices at grocery stores and restaurants and creating a dependency on eggs shipped from other states and Mexico that do not have the same high food safety standards as California.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on Prop. 2 by clicking here.
- You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.

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