Russia banned poultry imports from Italy starting Monday to prevent the spread of the bird flu virus after outbreaks in the EU member state, but Italy said the strain was not dangerous and the ban impact was negligible.

The ban applies to live birds, hatching eggs, poultry meat and all poultry products not subject to thermal treatment, poultry feed and used equipment for keeping and slaughtering birds, a spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry's animal and plant health watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, said on Tuesday.

Italy's health and agriculture ministries said the bird flu strain found in Italy was not dangerous to human beings.

An outbreak of low pathogenic bird flu strain H5N2 and antibodies to the H7 strain had been detected in northern Italy, near Ravenna, earlier this month during regular bird flu checks on farms and birds culled, Health Ministry said in a statement.

The strains are less dangerous than the H5N1 virus which has globally killed nearly 200 people.

All affected birds -- 10,000-12,000 ducks and geese on an industrial farm and about 200 chicken and guinea-fowls on a small farm -- had been culled and bird movements' monitoring had been tightened in 10-km areas around the farms, said a senior official at Italy's union of poultry farmers, Avitalia.


There is no economic impact from Russia's ban to the (Italian poultry) sector because there is practically no export to Russia, the official said on conditions of anonymity.

Italy produces about 1.06 million tonnes of poultry a year, most of it for internal consumption with only about 6 percent of output earmarked for export. Major part of export goes to Germany, France and Greece, the official said.

Italian Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro said the virus found in Italian poultry was not dangerous to human health, adding that food and agriculture product safety controls in Italy were among the tightest in Europe.

Russia's decision does not appear to be justified by any other reasons than commercial ones. There is no danger for consumers, De Castro said in a statement late on Monday.

Russia normally bans imports of poultry after it receives official confirmation from the international animal health body OIE. This year it has banned poultry imports from other EU members Hungary, Britain and the Czech Republic due to bird flu.

Russia banned meat and plant products from EU member Poland in November 2005. Warsaw in return blocked the start of talks between Moscow and Brussels on a new strategic partnership pact, covering areas such as energy, human rights and trade.

Russia regulates meat imports by tariff quotas. In the past, traders used import bans imposed on some countries for safety reasons to increase volumes of imports from other countries within the overall quotas.