Thu, Feb 01, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Live poultry banned from markets

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Bird flu fears have prompted the country's health authorities to raise the bar for poultry processing hygiene. In the process, the familiar sight of live birds in Taiwan's traditional markets will soon disappear.

"Taiwan is living in the danger zone for bird flu," said Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), convener of the Executive Yuan's special avian flu prevention panel. "Eating safely-slaughtered poultry does not present a risk ... Contact with live birds, however, does."

Chen made the remarks at yesterday's press conference to promote consumer awareness of the certification process.

Chen noted that Taiwan has already passed into law a ban on commercial poultry slaughtering outside of certified abattoirs, but the ban will not go into effect until April next year.

At the event yesterday, senior officials danced with children dressed in chicken suits to encourage people to eat more local chicken -- as long as the birds bear stickers indicating that they have been processed by a licensed abattoir, the officials said.

Lin Ching-chuang (林進忠) of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine said that consumers and market vendors had nothing to lose but unsanitary conditions and the danger that comes with handling live birds.

"The Ministry of Economics has worked closely with vendors to help them make the transition. They will receive funding to purchase equipment such as refrigerated displays that will make their stalls capable of handling and holding pre-prepared poultry as opposed to live birds," he said.

The quality and affordability of fowl will not suffer, he added, saying: "We have a highly efficient supply chain in Taiwan. It will be possible for consumers to buy very fresh birds."

Meanwhile, in Taipei's Yongle market, it was business as usual for vendors yesterday.

At a poultry stall, wire cages full of live chickens were stacked one on top of the other, or tucked under work surfaces. Feathers and droppings littered the area around the cages.

"The changes are inevitable and we're prepared for them," said a poultry stall worker who wished to remain anonymous.

"Chicken will probably get cheaper because the processing will be centralized and the environment at traditional markets will certainly improve," the vendor said.

"However, the taste will suffer," he added. "It doesn't matter what they say. Fresh chicken just tastes better."

Although the ban on live birds in markets will mark the end of an era, it will hopefully not mean the end of a way of life. According to the vendor, traditional markets will retain customer loyalty through the variety and expertise that they offer.

"You won't find the best food in supermarkets," he said. "We'll continue to be picky about the chicken we offer."

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