"Import bans on poultry that do not distinguish between infected and non-infected countries are contrary to the spirit of the World Trade Organization," the global agency has said in a statement issued from its headquarters in Rome.
Such bans are also contrary to the standards set by the World Organisation for Animal Health, the statement adds. Many countries have opted for pre-emptive import bans on poultry to prevent possible bird flu outbreaks.
The FAO has noted that in some cases, the bans include poultry from all countries, even those considered to be free of highly pathogenic avian influenza and those that have never experienced an outbreak of H5N1 virus that can potentially be transmitted to human beings.
The FAO has reminded consumers that avian influenza is not a food-borne disease and that the bird flu virus is killed by the heat of normal cooking. "There is no risk of getting avian influenza from properly cooked poultry and eggs."
Meat processors are urged to apply necessary safety measures toprevent virus transmission to humans.
Countries arbitrarily banning the import of poultry products from non-infectedcountries are increasing the vulnerability of international global markets to price shocks, the FAO points out.
Ithas cautioned countries that trade restrictions to safeguard human and animal health should be imposed only in proportion to the risk involved and that they should be removed promptly when they are no longer needed.
However,the countries exporting poultry products must also ensure that any incidence of the disease is immediately announced to all the trading partners and necessary steps are taken to limit the spread of the disease, it has asserted.
"Bans on poultry products from disease-freecountries increase uncertainties in the global meat market, which is already threatened by potential supply shortages and rising meat prices", the FAO has said.
It has recalled that the recent outbreaks of trans-boundary diseases and the imposition of disease-related export restrictions had an immediate impact on global meat trade in 2004-05.
International meat prices, as represented in the FAO meat price index, have risen to a 10-year