Distributor and supplier members of the Richmond, VA, procurement group, which includes Pocahontas Foods USA, All Kitchens USA, Bakery Distribution of America, Buonamici International and Plee-Zing, listened to a panel of industry and government experts offer advice and suggestions for distributor preparedness in case the country is engulfed in bird flu pandemic.
The panelists were Andy Rhorer, senior USDA coordinator, National Poultry Improvement Plan; Dr. Bruce Stewart-Brown, vice president of food safety and quality, Perdue; Dr. Bill Hewat, director of veterinary services, Tyson, Inc.; and Steve Potter, senior vice president, industry relations, International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA).
The panelists pointed out that the disease, simultaneously called bird flu, avian influenza or highly pathogenic H5N1, is a food safety concern but rather a health issue. Citing a Harvard University study, which states that 46% of consumers needlessly intend to stop eating poultry if bird flu occurs in the United States, the speakers indicated that's when the situation will also become a business calamity.
While the United States has never experienced an H5N1 contamination of its domestic poultry flocks, the World Health Organization at present lists the disease as a stage 3 of the pandemic alert