Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Domestic poultry products `safe'

BOYCOTT FEARS The head of the Council of Agriculture said well-cooked poultry meat is safe to eat while health officials focused on vaccination production concerns

By Chiu Yu-Tzu and Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Council of Agriculture Chairman Lee Ching-lung reported on the avian flu situation in Taiwan yesterday with a may indicating affected areas in Asia as a backdrop. Lee stressed that Taiwan remains unaffected by the devastating epidemic and consumers should be confident of eating poultry products.

PHOTO: CNA

Domestic poultry products deserve consumers' confidence because Taiwan remains a place where highly pathogenic avian influenza has never occurred, the Council of Agriculture said yesterday.

Council Chairman Lee Ching-lung (李金龍) reported on the avian flu situation in the country to the Legislative Yuan, stressing that Taiwan remains unaffected by the devastating bird flu.

Lee said that the H5N2, a weaker strain of avian flu which was recently found on five chicken farms and a duck farm, poses no danger to humans because it cannot survive in the meat of well-cooked ducks and chickens.

"The avian flu virus dies at high temperatures. Consumers should be confident of eating poultry products and eggs in Taiwan," Lee said.

Agriculture officials reiterated that H5N2 virus would be destroyed at temperatures higher than 80?C and that consumers should not react by boycotting poultry products or eggs.

Lee said that strict infection-prevention measures would be continued to keep the nation from being affected by the more deadly flu strain hurting 10 Asian countries and some European coun-tries, including the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Lee said, however, that the possibility of being affected by the epidemic could not be ruled out because Taiwan was surrounded by countries struggling to deal with the disease.

"Taiwan is threatened by both the passage of migratory birds and smuggling of bird-related pro-ducts," Lee said.

The council is considering providing financial aid to bird farmers to help them erect nets to prevent migratory birds from coming into contact with their flocks.

Taiwan is a wintering site for migratory birds which depart from Siberia and pass over South Korea or Japan on their way here.

Meanwhile, with the strain of the avian flu that was found in red-faced ducks apparently smuggled into Kinmen County in December confirmed to be identical to the strain in Vietnam that jumped from chickens into humans and caused several deaths, health officials in Matzu yesterday urged residents to purchase frozen poultry meat products shipped from Taiwan instead of products that lack a certificate of origin.

In light of the increasing severity of avian flu outbreaks in surrounding nations, the Center for Disease Control yesterday reiterated the importance of vaccine production in Taiwan and revealed plans to introduce a broader inoculation program that would cover children's vaccinations.

"Taiwan does not have any World Health Organization [WHO]-approved vaccine production labs," said center Director Su Ih-jen (蘇益仁), explaining that upgrading vaccine production should be a top priority in preventing future disease outbreaks.

"With regard to developing and obtaining vaccines against avian flu, Taiwan can't make its own vaccines and would have to purchase them from the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline," Su said.

"We plan to order more human flu vaccine in March, earlier than in previous years," he said.

The center's officials will meet today to discuss the details of a new vaccination policy that will enable children under the age of 10 to be vaccinated for free.

"In the past, we only provided the elderly with vaccinations because the flu is more fatal to the elderly," Su said.

"Preventing the disease from spreading to children, however, will decrease the chances of the elderly contracting avian flu," he said.

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