The largest producer and distributor of fresh eggs in the United States has been forced to destroy 1.6 million laying hens and 337,000 pullets because of an outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu).

Cal-Maine Foods also confirmed that it has “temporarily ceased” production at one of its Texas based facilities after it “tested positive” for the virus.

The company said it had culled approximately 3.6% of its total flock as it followed the protocols set out by the  US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in relation to an outbreak of bird flu.

In a statement it said:” Cal-Maine Foods is working to secure production from other facilities to minimize disruption to its customers.

“The company remains dedicated to robust biosecurity programs across its locations.”

Bird flu

However it also warned that no farm is “immune” to bird flu.

It has highlighted that according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the human health risk to the public from associated viruses “is considered to be low”.

Cal-Maine Foods also said that US authorities believe that the virus “cannot be transmitted through safely handled and properly cooked eggs”.

The company has said that it is currently working closely “with federal, state and local government officials and focused industry groups to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks and effectively manage the response”.

The outbreak at Cal-Maine Foods’ facility in Parmer County, Texas, comes in the same week that the CDC confirmed that a person who had contact with dairy cattle in Texas infected with bird flu had also tested positive.

The USDA confirmed last week (March 26) that the virus had been detected in sick cattle in two dairy herds in Texas and two dairy herds in Kansas.

However yesterday (Tuesday, April 2) the department said that bird flu had also been detected in a dairy herd in Idaho – the first known case of bird flu in Idaho.

To date the USDA has confirmed the detection of the virus in dairy herds in Texas (7) Kansas (2), Michigan (1), and New Mexico (1).