France is flooding the British market with poultry meat following a slump in domestic sales over fears of avian flu, say farmers.
Poultry sales in France, where a flock of turkey has been infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, have fallen by 30 per cent prompting farmers to export their meat to the UK, the NFU conference in Birmingham was told.
Shropshire poultry farmer David Mills urged the Government's chief scientist Professor Sir David King and the Food Standards Agency to reassure consumers by confirming that poultry meat and eggs were safe to eat.
He said: "The Government has not come out and categorically said it is 100 per cent safe and the public and the press have picked up on this issue. We are getting very concerned."
Dame Deirdre Hutton, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, replied: "Avian flu does not present a risk to consumers provided the meat is properly cooked. I don't believe we are faced with a consumer problem except one that is only perception."
The comments came after Birmingham restaurant City Inn removed wildfowl from its menus last week following concerns over avian flu.
Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett refused to condemn the restaurant yesterday but insisted its concerns were unfounded.
She said: "It is a matter for their commercial decision but I will simply say that we understand and would advise that meat which is properly prepared and properly cooked is not thought to be any risk to human health."
Sir David said it was likely bird flu would reach Britain, but that did not necessarily mean it would cause an epidemic.
"We feel it is more likely than it was in December. If the disease should arrive in the wild bird population in the UK there is no reason why it should be penetrating into poultry holdings in the UK.
"If one goes down, that does not mean others will go down because the spread of disease is going to be very difficult."
Tim Bennett, president of the NFU, warned that the British poultry industry could be destroyed by any scare-mongering connected to avian flu.
He said the union was ready to vaccinate flocks if required.