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How bird flu could impact your cross-border shopping

The current global outbreak of bird flu (avian influenza) has been unprecedented in scale and duration.

The virus continues to spread around the world, with outbreaks occurring not only in Canada but in the United States, Mexico, Central and South America, and other countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe.

The avian influenza virus is not considered to be a known foodborne pathogen, and there's no evidence to suggest that eating cooked poultry or eggs transmits bird flu to humans. Still, it's important to take preventive measures to help protect Canadian commercial flocks, backyard flocks, pet birds and other birds.

Be aware of restrictions on poultry products

Since there are still outbreaks in the United States (and other countries) and cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) in poultry flocks in Canada, import restrictions at the border can help limit the spread of bird flu.

While it's not possible to control the flight patterns of wild birds, respecting the imposed import restrictions of poultry products and not bringing in these products from certain parts of the United States with active outbreaks can go a long way.

As of March 15, 2023, retail packaged and fully cooked poultry products for human consumption that are clearly labelled as a "Product of the USA" are acceptable for import from any U.S. state, regardless of its outbreak status. This applies to products presented in person only at the border, and not products imported by mail or courier.

Canadians and travellers coming into Canada with poultry products and poultry by-products from the United States should be aware of restrictions before crossing the border. Find out what's allowed and what isn't.

For example, if you're planning to buy a turkey or pick up eggs while in the United States, these products could be seized at the border if they are purchased from a roadside stand or farm, are not retail packaged and labelled, or can't be identified.

Import requirements can change daily due to emerging threats. Canada Border Services Agency border services officers screen travellers for inadmissible goods to Canada and consider all factors before making final admissibility decisions.

A summary of bird flu in Canada

After first being detected in Canada in a small flock in Newfoundland and Labrador in December 2021, the viral infection has made its way across the country and continues to impact farmed and wild birds alike.

Wild birds, especially waterfowl, are natural carriers of influenza viruses and the main source of the spread of bird flu.

The disease can spread to birds through contact with infected poultry and poultry products. It can also be transmitted through contaminated items, such as manure, litter, clothing, footwear, vehicles, equipment, feed and water.

Countries across the world continue to respond to detections of the disease and are working to prevent further spread. In Canada, aquatic birds (like ducks and geese) typically spread the virus during the spring and fall migratory seasons.

Bird flu generally impacts a limited number of Canadian small flocks and commercial flocks each year. But since 2021, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been responding to outbreaks in millions of birds across the country to prevent the spread of the disease.

There's currently no treatment for bird flu, and prevention is the best defence.

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