Bird flu in France: Growing epidemic affects food ingredient supply

Food manufacturers have been given permission to make changes to recipes as a result of egg and poultry shortages

A photo of a chicken farm with chickens on the floor of a barn
Bird flu has caused the slaughter of millions of poultry birds in France and is causing shortages of key ingredients
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Food manufacturers in France have been authorised to make temporary changes to products that contain egg or poultry ingredients as bird flu sweeps through the country.

Manufacturers can apply for permission to change a recipe from the fraud and consumption office, the DGCCRF, which will give authorisation for a maximum of three months, as long as the change does not put consumers in danger.

The permission has been offered in case manufacturers experience “provision tensions” of certain egg or poultry-based ingredients within the context of the growing bird flu epidemic.

In a statement, the DGCCRF said: “The bird flu epidemic, which has been raging in France since November 2021, is affecting the supply of the food industry for the production of certain foodstuffs made from eggs or egg products, or poultry ingredients.”

Read more: Egg prices to rise sharply in France as a result of bird flu epidemic

The authorisation will come with some conditions, however.

If the recipe change means that the terms "GMO-free", "organically produced", "raised without antibiotics", "free-range" or "French origin" are no longer respected, this information will have to be "explicit" on the packaging by adding a label or by masking the relevant term.

Other changes can be highlighted with a simple “derog” label, meaning “dérogation (exception)”.

Other conditions will still need to be met. For example, in a product such as duck rillette, “part of the duck meat and/or fat” can be replaced with “chicken meat and/or fat”, but only if the final product still “contains a minimum of 40% duck meat and 20% duck fat”, the DGCCRF said.

It comes after the DGCCRF had already allowed food manufacturers to change their ingredients as a result of the sunflower oil shortage caused by supply difficulties due to the war in Ukraine.

Read more: Sunflower oil shortage prompts recipe changes to shop foods in France

Read more: Sunflower oil replacement in France: What if I have allergies?

Bird flu epidemic

Bird flu has caused more than 19 million birds to be slaughtered in France over the past few months.

Most recently, a farm in Ain was identified as affected on Sunday, August 28, causing 10,600 ducks to be slaughtered. An inquiry has now been opened to establish the origin of the contamination.

The prefecture has installed a 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone around the farm, in line with health regulations.

It said: “In order to control the risk of spreading the virus, the movement of poultry is prohibited in these areas where strict sanitary measures must be observed.”

At the end of July, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that almost €460million of financial aid is set to be unblocked to help the farmers and companies affected.

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