Following the confirmation of a highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in the Canadian state of British Columbia, the European Commission has adopted a proposal to suspend the import of live poultry, poultry meat and products and eggs from Canada into the EU.

The suspension will begin with immediate effect and is currently applicable until 6 April.

On 9 March, the Canadian authorities confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic bird flu in a poultry flock in Fraser Valley in British Columbia. The detected virus strain is different from the strain currently causing the epidemic in Asia and probably poses a lesser public health risk than the Asian one, the Commission said.

However, the Commission said immediate action was needed to prevent the introduction of the disease into the EU.

The EU is a major importer of hatching eggs from Canada. In 2003, approximately 15 million hatching eggs for a value of €10.5m (US$12.9m) were imported. This represents about a third of the total imports of hatching eggs in the EU. In the same year, approximately 170,000 day-old chicks were imported from Canada. The import of poultry meat and poultry products from Canada is negligible (50 tonnes of duck cuts in 2003), the Commission said.