No risk to consumers - Bernard Matthews

FOOD giant Bernard Matthews has insisted there is “no risk to consumers” following the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu at its Suffolk factory.Bosses said they were doing everything possible to work with Defra to contain the situation, and stressed that none of the affected birds had entered the food chain.

FOOD giant Bernard Matthews has insisted there is “no risk to consumers” following the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu at its Suffolk factory.

Bosses said they were doing everything possible to work with Defra to contain the situation, and stressed that none of the affected birds had entered the food chain.

A spokesman said: “While Bernard Matthews can confirm that there has been a case of H5N1 avian influenza at its Holton site, it is important to stress that none of the affected birds have entered the food chain and there is no risk to consumers.

“Bernard Matthews is working closely with Defra and other industry bodies to contain the infection. The company meets and in many cases far exceeds Defra's biosecurity standards for combating avian flu.”


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The Bernard Matthews factories at Holton are on the site of a former Second World War airbase.

The company employs more than 1,000 workers there and is one of the largest employers in north Suffolk - with production staff bussed into Holton from a wide area, including Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

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It is a key part of the worldwide Bernard Matthews operation, which has an annual turnover of over £400million and employs around 7,000 people.

But it is a far cry from its simple beginnings in 1950, when its founder - whose hugely successful advertising slogan “It's bootiful” became a national catchphrase - started the business with just 20 turkey eggs and a second hand incubator.

Two years later, Matthews was producing 3,000 turkey eggs at his Norfolk home and decided to leave his insurance job and move into turkey farming full-time.

The company's website tells how just three years later, he bought a derelict mansion and 36 acres of land. Great Witchingham Hall, near Norwich, now restored to its former glory, remains the headquarters of the company.

It has gone on to become one of the biggest and most successful turkey manufacturers in Europe, farming eight million turkeys every year in the UK.

The firm says it feeds them a strictly vegetarian diet from the company's own feed mills and rears them on 57 farms throughout Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

After being floated on the stock exchange in 1971, the company has recently reverted to being a limited company with ownership returning to the Matthews family. Bernard Matthews remains the company chairman.

However, in 2005 the firm's Turkey Twizzler product came under fire from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver during his campaign for healthier school meals. The product ended up being taken off many school menus.

But Bernard Matthews managing director David Joll said at the time: “A Twizzler has much less fat than a sausage yet we don't hear Jamie Oliver telling people not to eat sausages.”

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