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France fears Christmas foie gras shortage

Producers have called for calm after fresh outbreaks of bird flu raised concerns that foie gras would be absent from French dinner tables this Christmas.

French officials effectively announced further restrictions on foie gras sales and production this week after raising the risk level from avian influenza to ‘high’, from ‘moderate’.

Several new cases of H5N8 bird flu have appeared in ducks in the south-west of France; a key foie gras production area.

That prompted an outpouring of concern in French media over the fate of foie gras this Christmas.

Foie gras is fundamental to a traditional French Christmas dinner, even if it is arguably the most controversial of French foods to produce.

But, there’s no need to panic, according to the industry.

Marie-Pierre Pé, secretary general of France’s foie gras bureau, told the country’s LC1 radio station this week that ‘there won’t be any impact on availability for the festive season’.

Foie gras producers have faced disruption from bird flu throughout 2015 and 2016, particularly in the south-west of the country.

Thousands of ducks have been slaughtered and production was temporarily halted at one stage.

The new cases found this week and the higher threat level means that export restrictions outside of the European Union are set to be extended.

Animal rights protesters have long argued that foie gras should be banned on cruelty grounds, due to practices included the force-feeding of ducks to create inflated livers.

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