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HK Lifts Ban on Mainland Chilled Poultry Imports

Hong Kong government Thursday resumed the importation of chilled and frozen poultry from the mainland to active its market.

Carrie Yau, permanent secretary for health, welfare and food, said that it is expected that the first batch of mainland poultry meat will arrive in Hong Kong in the week starting March 22.

"We have been monitoring the bird flu outbreak situation in the mainland very closely before we decided to resume the imports," said Yau.

"As the bird flu outbreak situation in the region has started to ease off, we have decided to lift the restrictions on the importation," said Yau.

A spokesman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department told Xinhua Thursday that the priority for poultry imports from the mainland is "safety."

"This is why we only lift the ban on chilled and frozen poultry, which by the standard of the World Health Organization (WHO) was basically safe as to preventing the spreading the bird flu," said the spokesman.

The spokesman declined to forecast when the ban on importation of living mainland poultry will be lifted.

He said the government officials have consulted with poultry retailers and wholesalers on the measure.

The spokesman said the dealers, who also asked for lifting the ban on the mainland living poultry importation, generally accepted the measure.

The bird flu outbreak over a month ago in Asia made Hong Kong decide to ban the poultry imports from a number of areas, including the mainland.

Now the mainland is witnessing an improving situation in curbing the infectious animal disease, and its poultry imports gradually getting normal. Hong Kong's poultry dealers thus appealed to the government for approving the poultry imports.

Carrie Yau said the government now believes that the chilled and frozen poultry products "pose relatively less risk to human health."

On the resumption of poultry imports from the mainland, she said that the Hong Kong government has reached agreement with relevant mainland authorities to adopt a series of additional measures to ensure the hygiene standard of poultry products from the mainland and enhance consumers' confidence.

Guan Yi, an expert on virus from the Hong Kong University, told Xinhua Thursday that it's safe to import mainland chilled and frozen poultry.

He also suggested that the viscus of the poultry should be got rid of before export.

"That will be more secure, I believe," said Guan.

(Xinhua News Agency March 11, 2004)

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