The EU's executive has announced that key EU trading partners, including Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the Ukraine and Turkey, have lifted restrictions on poultry imports from countries hit by avian flu outbreaks late last year.

Italy, UK, the Netherlands and Germany all experienced outbreaks of the highly contagious H5N8 strain of bird flu in December 2014, which led to national veterinary authorities imposing EU-prescribed emergency measures.

These measures included culling all birds on affected farms and banning poultry movement within a 10 km radius. Scientific experts believe the virus was spread by migratory birds.

DG Sante officials welcomed the end to the restrictions, but said country-wide bans "should not have been imposed in the first place".

"The EU had immediately rolled out stringent regionalisation measures for the affected areas which guarantee safe trade from areas that remain free of the disease," they said.

Avian flu in 2015

A recently published report from the UK Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs concluded that this year is unprecedented in terms of the frequency of avian influenza outbreaks, the regions affected and the role of wild birds, trade or population movement and poor biosecurity in increasing incursion risk and transmission.

In the past few months, North America has experienced the most extensive outbreak of avian flu ever seen in the country. Some 156 outbreaks of bird flu were confirmed between December 2014 and May 2015, with almost 32 million birds affected in culling measures.

European cases have been reported in Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and Turkey, while in west Africa Burkina Faso has reported 22 cases since March 2015. Outbreaks have also been reported on the Niger and Nigeria borders.