Poultry product sales in the Midlands have not been affected by the outbreak of bird flu in Suffolk, the National Farmers' Union said yesterday.

 As the destruction of 150,000 turkey carcasses at the Pointons rendering plant in Cheddleton, Staffordshire, was completed last night, David Mills, chairman of the NFU's poultry board, said shoppers in the Midlands were still buying poultry.

"In the West Midlands, we have not been affected yet, but these are anxious times," he said. "Talking to our local supermarkets this morning, I have found out that there has been no change in sales.

"This was an isolated case in Suffolk and life is going on as normal."

Supermarkets throughout the region last night confirmed the union's claims. A spokesman for Somerfield said staff had been kept up-to-date with the latest information.

He said: "We have sent messages out to stores in case there are concerned customers to reassure them.

"We have not seen any impact on poultry sales at this stage. We do not source our products from the affected plant and Bernard Matthews does not supply any Somerfield own brand products."

A Tesco spokeswoman added: "We work very hard with our suppliers to ensure the highest standards of biosecurity are maintained at all times and we have contingency plans in place should our supply chain become affected. Tesco poultry and egg products are safe."

"The disease can, in any event, only be spread through direct contact with birds, and not through poultry products."

Suzette Davenport, chairman of the Staffordshire Resilience Forum (SRF), which was involved in the operation to discard the turkey carcasses, said: "Throughout this whole process, public safety has been the top priority for the Staffordshire responding agencies involved.

"The Resilience Forum is a statutory body made up of representatives from across the county’s public services including the blue-light emergency services, county, city and district councils, health services and other partners.

"We all have a responsibility as category one responders under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) to plan and work together to overcome emergency situations."

Although it too tried to reassure the public about the risks of bird flu, Staffordshire County Council yesterday announced a ban on events where birds would be brought together in the county. The affected events include Penkridge Market, which involves the sale of poultry every Wednesday, poultry auctions held at Leek livestock market every other Saturday and a canary show, which was planned to take place at Talke Village Hall on Sunday.

Terry Dix, leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: "The county council has a tried and tested contingency plan for dealing with outbreaks of animal disease.

"Under the circumstances these are sensible precautions and our animal health team are working with organisers and enforcing the ban.

"Keepers of birds are urged to be vigilant and to exercise good biosecurity. Any owners that suspect disease should act quickly and consult their vet.

"There is no reason for public health concern. Avian influenza is a disease of birds and while it can pass – rarely and with difficulty – to humans this requires extremely close contact with infected birds, particularly faeces."

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