The discovery could affect France’s production of foie gras, the luxury pate made from fattened duck with Christmas just around the corner.
The run-up to Christmas coincides with peak demand for foie gras, France's favorite festive treat, made from duck or goose liver. According to French health authorities, the avian influenza virus H5N8 was detected in 20 wild ducks in Pas-de-Calais on November 26, prompting France to raise the alarm level for avian flu to its highest level in many nearby provinces.
The French Agriculture Ministry said farmers need to take strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus including keeping their poultry in cages or using nets to prevent their poultry from contacting wild birds. Hunting in high-risk areas has been prohibited.
France has the largest population of poultry in the EU. Early this year, its southwestern region was attacked by an avian influenza pandemic. The avian influenza virus was found on 69 farms in the region, seriously affecting France’s food industry. At that time, the Ministry of Agriculture asked a number of poultry farms to halt their production until May.
In late 2015, Japan and China banned imports of French poultry products due to the spreading bird flu epidemic in France. Last November, Japan halted its import of French foie gras. A representative of CIFOP, France’s leading foie gras maker, said the production of goose liver products has fallen by one third and is likely to shrink half if the situation gets any worse.
France produces 75% of the world’s foie gras products with exports reaching 5,000 tons in 2014. The return of bird flu juts before the Christmas and New Year holidays could be a disaster for foie gras producers and consumers.