TRADING STANDARDS officers have a vital role in educating the public about avian influenza (AI) and helping to manage outbreaks across the country.

And the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has warned its members face a challenging winter.

See also: Biosecurity remains key to keeping out avian influenza

The CTSI’s lead officer for animal health and welfare, Stephanie Young, says that Trading Standards officers have a statutory role working alongside Defra and the APHA to manage AI control.

When Avian Influenza Prevention Zones or Housing Orders are introduced, the priority is communicating the importance of complying, she explains.

“We explain to the public that the key thing is the prevention of disease spread and the protection of their animals,” she told Poultry.Network.  

Education

“If we have a housing order, we try to make sure people understand the significance of that.”

That can typically only be done with people who have registered their flocks – it is currently only a requirement if a holding has more than 50 birds.

Lowering the threshold from 50 birds and making registration mandatory for all poultry keepers is something the CTSI has been pushing for, explains Ms Young.

Enforcement

Enforcement is another element the CTSI would like to change. Currently, poultry keepers who are not compliant with housing orders, for example, must be served notice through legislation relating to either avian influenza or animal welfare.

This process is complex – and time-consuming – being able to issue penalty notices would be part of the solution, says Ms Young.

Outbreaks

When an outbreak is confirmed, a 3km Protection Zone and 10km Surveillance Zone are set up, and extensive testing and tracing of all poultry in that area is undertaken.

Trading Standards have a statutory role in this and are tasked with tracing all poultry within the zones.

This is highly resource intensive, says Ms Young. “I’ve got to put bodies on the ground, and it often takes up the whole service.”

In rural areas, it’s a case of going house to house, but occasionally in more built-up parts, the team has leafletted houses requesting people register their birds.

Local initiatives

Although Trading Standards teams conform to a national procedure, each local authority has developed a method that helps improve upon the base response for their region.

In North Yorkshire, working with the Local Resilience Forum (LRF), a multi-agency forum including critical emergency responders, proved helpful in joining their response.

Elsewhere, at Lincolnshire Trading Standards, a partnership with emergency services previously proved fruitful when a fire station was set up as a forward operating base in collaboration with the Fire Service.

Remain vigilant

Ms Young adds: “Although we are only at what would typically be considered the start of the season for Avian Influenza, we are already seeing multiple cases across the UK.

“There is a lot of concern of cases within backyard flocks, and it is important that all owners of poultry remain vigilant for signs of the disease and follow good bio-security measures.”

Non-compliance can be reported to local Trading Standards teams – the link below will help you find yours. 

Consumer Help and Advice | CTSI – Chartered Trading Standards Institute UK