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Avian flu threatens British food staples, from English breakfast to Christmas dinner

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Egg shortages could be on the cards as avian flu sweeps through Europe.

Sam Mellish / Contributor / Getty Images

LONDON — The classic English fry-up and traditional Christmas turkey dinner could be under threat as Britain deals with the impact of rising cases of avian flu.

Fried, poached, scrambled and boiled eggs may well be off the menu as some British supermarkets have warned that supplies could be disrupted, while grocery stores have also made moves to bolster turkey stocks ahead of the festive season.

Britain’s second-largest supermarket group Sainsbury’s says it has ordered more turkeys to give itself a “buffer” as the festive season approaches, while the top supermarket chain, Tesco, said in October it expects to have enough turkeys for Christmas, according to Reuters.

Shoppers at discount store Lidl are reportedly only able to purchase up to three boxes of eggs, while the U.K.’s third-largest supermarket chain Asda has limited customers to two boxes per transaction.

The current avian flu outbreak is the largest ever experienced in the U.K., and the government ordered for all poultry and captive birds in England to be kept indoors from Nov. 7 to try to contain the highly infectious disease.

Governments across Europe have culled bird populations to limit the spread of avian flu. Almost six million birds have been killed in the Netherlands since October 2021, while Spain, Bulgaria, Denmark and France have also been badly affected. 

Nearly 50 million birds have been killed in Europe this year as countries try to contain the disease, according to the EU’s Food Safety Agency.

Millions of chickens and turkeys put down as avian flu spreads


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