On 8 January 2009, the Official Journal of the EU published Decision 2009/6/EC, thereby extending the applicability of a range of restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza, which has appeared sporadically in the EU Member States since 2005. The restrictions, which had initially been adopted between 2005 and 2007, had been slated to expire after 31 December 2008, but the Commission's present Decision extends their applicability through 31 December 2009.
As Hong Kong traders of poultry and other farm products will likely recall, the Commission adopted Council Directive 2005/94/EC on Community measures for the control of avian influenza (the so-called Avian Influenza Directive) in December 2005 in response to a series of H5N1 cases throughout Europe. The Avian Influenza Directive sets out rules on the surveillance, control and eradication measures that must be taken in the event of a highly pathogenic outbreak. It provides for the use of both emergency and preventive vaccination against avian influenza, subject to specific requirements, including the following: preventive vaccination must be based on a risk assessment carried out by national authorities, and will be subject to rigorous surveillance requirements for vaccinated birds. In addition, Commission Decision 2005/744/EC allows Member States to vaccinate special categories of birds (e.g., zoo birds) to protect them against avian flu.
The Avian Influenza Directive also gives the Commission full flexibility to take ad hoc measures in the case of an outbreak of avian influenza, under the rationale that it is impossible to foresee beforehand every possible scenario in framework legislation. For example, Commission Decision 2006/115/EC, lays down precautionary measures in the event of a suspected or confirmed case of avian influenza in wild birds. This Decision also lays out requirements for containment of poultry indoors, enhanced bio-security and movement restrictions.
The most important Commission decision for Hong Kong traders, however, relates to the ban on the import of poultry and poultry products from the Chinese mainland (and Thailand), namely, Commission Decision 2005/692/EC. This Decision prohibits the importation of:
fresh poultry meat;
meat preparations and meat products consisting of, or containing, poultry meat;
raw pet food and unprocessed feed material containing any parts of poultry;
eggs for human consumption; and
non-treated game trophies from any birds.
In addition to the Chinese mainland and Thailand, the last three types of products mentioned above are also banned if they originate in Malaysia or South Korea.
The only exception to the above blanket ban is provided for in Commission Decisions 2007/777/EC and 2008/638/EC, under which poultry meat products originating in Shandong Province in mainland China may be imported to the EU provided that they have undergone heat treatment to a minimum of 70 degrees Celsius in accordance with safety provisions agreed between the EU and the Chinese authorities.
The Commission's present decision does not change any of the substantive restrictions mentioned above, but merely extends their applicability until 31 December 2009.