DFL lawmaker apologizes for bird flu jest

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota legislator has apologized for comments about bird flu that drew swift criticism from his House colleagues.

Rep. Ron Erhardt wore a lab coat and stethoscope on the state House floor Tuesday. He told lawmakers he felt flu symptoms over the weekend after eating turkey.

"Now, I put on my former doctoring hat and clothes and began to think about this," the Edina Democrat said. "I thought, 'Well, there must be some way, even after you've ingested this possible poison, that we might help you out.'"

He then held up a jar marked "bird flu vaccine" and said it would slow the virus down.

A strain of bird flu has led to the deaths of more than 5 million Minnesota birds in recent months. Health officials say the risk to the general public is low. Erhardt's comments came hours after a turkey cookout on the Capitol lawn designed to support the industry.

Lawmakers in both parties immediately criticized Erhardt for what they saw as a tasteless joke.

"It appears as though this is going to be maybe a joke at some point. But the turkey farmers in our state are suffering a very serious crisis," said Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin. "Turkey is a safe food to eat. It's not something that we need to be making light of."

Erhardt apologized in a statement released Tuesday. He said he wanted to discuss potential public health issues around bird flu and he's confident eating turkey is safe.

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