THE NETHERLANDS government has said it will keep its housing order for poultry in place because the risk of avian influenza remains high.
It means that the 16-week derogation, which allows farmers to market meat and eggs from housed birds as free-range, will come to an end on 11 February.
In a letter to the Dutch parliament, minister for agriculture Carola Shouten said that, while the risk had reduced in recent weeks, avian influenza continued to circulate in wild birds – and there continued to be outbreaks in neighbouring countries.
The virus can survive for a long time in low temperatures, and spring wild bird migrations can present another risk, the letter added.
The most recent outbreak in the Netherlands was in a flock of turkeys in the country’s centre. There have been 11 outbreaks in total there this year.
Across Europe, there have been recent outbreaks in Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden Hungary, Poland and Ukraine.
Ms Schouten said the housing order would be lifted as soon as it was felt the risk was low enough – and could be done regionally.
In the UK the most recent outbreak was in a flock of pheasants on Anglesey, North Wales, and before that two flocks in Northern Ireland in early January.
And for Great Britain, the housing order was declared later than in the Netherlands (on 14 December) meaning that eggs and meat from housed birds can continue to be marketed as free-range until early April.