Bernard Matthews, UK's largest turkey farm and marketing firm owner, is in the news again. His company will be given 670,000 pounds in compensation for the 160,000 turkeys that had to be culled last month, in the wake of a bird flu outbreak, caused by the deadly strain H5N1.
The company, which has a 4800 strong workforce, had reported sales as low by 40 percent, last month. UK taxpayers are expected to pay the compensation, though there are talks that the EU may foot half the bill.
AdvertisementAt the same time experts are considering whether unhygienic conditions at Mathew's turkey plant at Suffolk, could have led to the outbreak. There is evidence of faulty roofs, rats, mice as well as scavenging birds roosting at the farm. Yet as an official of Libdem Food and Farming says, claims against compensation would be 'woefully misplaced' at such a time.
In the wake of recent problems associated with the bird flu outbreak, Bernard Mathews has decided to lay off another 38 of its workers, bringing the total number to 168. Yet, a representative of the workers, Miles Hubbard of the TGWU, is hopeful:" Things are panning out as expected with more people being laid off but there are signs the situation is bottoming out with recovery happening slowly."
Precautionary measures have been taken by the company to protect its workers who were involved in the clean-up following the discovery of bird flu, last month.
Around 480 of the workers were given antiviral medication and out of them 310 were vaccinated against the seasonal flu. Six of the workers who developed flu-like symptoms were followed up and tests, taken later, showed any signs of bird flu, as negative.
Says Dr Jonathan Van Tam, a flu expert at the Health Protection Agency: "The risk of any workers testing positive for avian flu has been, and remains, very low as they have followed all the necessary precautions in terms of protective clothing and hygiene measures, and have been offered antiviral drugs."
The agency says it will continue to monitor the situation locally, working with Defra (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Bernard Matthews firm.