The bird flu scare in the Republic of Korea (ROK), Japan and Viet Nam has not gone unnoticed but it has not deterred the Chinese enthusiasm for chicken.
Sales of chicken -- one of the mainstays in Chinese dinner tables -- are on the rise, driven by menu preparations for Spring Festival celebrations.
"Bird flu? I have heard of it," said Beijing resident Huang Yi. But she said there is no need to worry about the disease.
After all, the disease has not been found in China and imports of birds from the three affected countries have been banned, she said.
Her thoughts were echoed by Bo Wen, of the China Cuisine Association, who said nearly all restaurants in the country cook domestic chicken.
KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) stores in Beijing are as crowded as they have always been.
"I saw a big crowd there when I passed by at noon," said Qin Yannan, referring to a KFC store at the Maliandao street in the Xuanwu District of Beijing.
"Our sales of chicken have remained steady and as the Spring Festival nears, sales have even become rising," said a source with the Shouhang Guoli company, which has more than 30 chain stores in Beijing.
The source said all the chicken sold in the company's stores is from domestic breeders and therefore free of bird flu.
Meanwhile, sales of Chinese chicken in foreign markets have not been affected by the outbreak.
A source with sales department of the Beijing Huadu chicken company said the export volume of the company's chicken remains normal. The company exports mainly to southeastern Asian countries.
Chinese authorities have taken quick steps to prevent bird flu from spreading into the country.
To date the Ministry of Agriculture and the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine have imposed bans on the imports of ROK, Japanese and Vietnamese avian products.
To prevent the virus from entering China and to protect the country's animal health, the two ministries have also issued orders for any ROK, Japanese and Vietnamese poultry and bird products already in China to be returned or destroyed.
It is also required that people from the three countries, while entering China, undergo health checks and quarantine measures.
"We have never stopped making efforts to prevent bird flu," said Li Yan with the Beijing station for veterinarian and health supervision and inspection.
Such efforts include inspections of markets where chicken and other poultry are sold, Li said.
(China Daily January 17, 2004)