KARACHI: Import of Chinese chicken products continued unabated despite the fact that many countries suspended procurement of poultry and poultry products (even fully cooked) from China after outbreak of avian influenza that claimed several lives in China.

Sources said that some local companies had been importing crispy chicken patty, grilled chicken patty, chicken patty, chicken nugget, value chicken patty, etc. from China.

These products were cleared under PCT 1602.3200 and 1602.3900. Over 50,000-kg of these products were imported in March alone.

The Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA) showed deep concern over the imported chicken products from China terming it a serious threat to the consumers.

PPA Secretary Dr Bashir Mahmood Bhatti, in a letter to the Federal Ministry of Health on May 3, said that the government had banned the imports of poultry and poultry products in all forms from China in a decision taken in the Trade Policy 2012-2015 due to outbreak of Avian Influenza.

The notification under Para-5 A (iv) states: “Poultry and poultry products and other captive live birds (pet, game, wild, exotic and fancy birds) from Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Africa, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Turkey, Greece, Romania, Croatia, Iran, Italy Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Iraq, Bulgaria, Slovenia, France, Nigeria, Slovakia, Austria, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Germany, Afghanistan, Scotland-United Kingdom and China on account of Avian Influenza H5N1 strain, shall not be allowed till further orders.

“This ban shall, however, not apply to egg powder from China and to the import of cooked poultry products from South Africa and Malaysia, after certification from designated laboratories at Hong Kong to the effect that these are free from Avian Influenza H5N1 strain.”

However, the PPA official said that in the next para import from China was allowed with a condition which reads as: “Provided also that this ban shall not apply to the import of processed or cooked poultry products from China, subject to the certification from the competent authority in China to the effect that (a) poultry commodity or products have been processed at not less than 70C (Degree Celsius) for reasonable time length throughout manufacturing or cooking of the product to ensure the destruction of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)(H5NI) virus; and (b) raw material for said processed poultry commodity or product has originated from Avian Influenza free zone or area or compartment and processed or cooked in an approved establishment registered with competent authority of exporting country.”

PPA said the condition does not specify as to whether 70C is the core temperature of the products and for how long. The term ‘Reasonable’ is subjective and can mean anything from 02 seconds to 20 minutes. Further, as mandatory condition of other countries to inspect the facilities of the exporter before allowing imports from that particular facility, Pakistan has no such conditions.

To the best of our knowledge, the secretary PPA said, the health authorities at the customs port of entry are not being provided any certification nor it is being provided to the customs authorities. The association said it may be made abundantly clear that “no country in the world has allowed the import of even fully cooked poultry products from a country where bird flu is prevalent and that country’s name appears on the OIE list of Bird Flu infected countries.” Every country is apprehensive of the dangers of feeding food items imported from a country where bird flu is prevalent, as such, no government wants to be exposed to the risk and consequences of allowing imports of food from infected countries.

A recent outbreak in China of another strain of Avian Influenza virus H7N9 has been reported by OIE (world organization for animal health). The new virus is being termed by WHO experts as “one of the most lethal Influenza viruses”.

It has also been reported that a Taiwanese who had traveled to mainland China was confirmed to be infected with Avian Influenza H7N9. A leading flu expert to the World Health Organization, told the press that the latest strain was more easily transmittable than the more common H5N1 virus. Experts had previously remarked on the affinity H7N9 virus had for humans, as reported in a publication in Thailand. Foreign media also carried a story on April 29 in detail that 108 people have been infected and 22 deaths have taken place in China.

PPA is of the considered view that “the new virus is not only a serious threat to humans but also a great threat to poultry production sector of the country.”

The PPA requested the ministry that in order to save the poultry sector and human lives from the new H7N9 strain of Bird Flu, an immediate ban be imposed on imports from China of poultry and poultry products falling under PCT Headings 0105 (Live Chicken), 0207 (Poultry Meat), 0401 (Eggs), 1601 (Chicken Sausages), 1602.3200 (Other Prepared or Preserved Meat of fowls) and 1602.3900 (Other) irrespective whether they are fully cooked or uncooked.

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