Japanese police search poultry company

Japanese police searched a poultry company Friday amid suspicions it provided samples only from healthy animals to ensure it would pass tests for the bird flu virus, local authorities said. IKN Egg Farms is suspected of providing samples only from chickens the company thought were free of the contagion in three rounds of testing this past August and September, Ibaraki Prefectural (state) police spokesman Katsunori Kurosawa said.

Kurosawa said the testing took place at six of the company's farms in the prefecture, which is about 50 miles northeast of Tokyo. IKN was supposed to have provided random samples from its flocks, Kurosawa said. However, the prefecture's committee on domestic livestock disease prevention found irregularities in the samples, he explained, raising suspicions that tests were made on only healthy birds.

Friday's searches involved 25 IKN facilities, Kurosawa said, including the company's headquarters in Yokohama, a major port city 18 miles south of Tokyo. Police in three prefectures carried out the joint operation, which involved looking for evidence that samples had not been collected appropriately, Kurosawa said.

The police will consider bringing charges against the company for violating the livestock infection prevention law, he said.

Ibaraki has been the site of several bird flu outbreaks involving the H5N2 virus, which Japanese officials say has never been confirmed to infect humans.

Hundreds of thousands of birds have been destroyed at dozens of other farms in Ibaraki over the past few months. This past Saturday, officials announced plans to cull another 110,000 free-range chickens suspected of carrying the H5N2 virus at another farm in the prefecture, reports the AP. I.L.

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