Government consults public on way forward for live poultry trade in Hong Kong
"Highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (AI) viruses have been circulating in many parts of the world and threatening Hong Kong. Over the years, the Government and the local live poultry trade have built up a resilient and stringent surveillance and control system on AI. Through co-operation with the relevant Mainland authorities, imported live poultry is put under stringent surveillance and inspection. All these efforts aim to reduce the AI risk in Hong Kong.
"Nevertheless, the emergence of AI incidents has prompted the Government to review the sale of live poultry on public health grounds. We have commissioned a consultancy study to advise on the way forward for the live poultry trade of Hong Kong, including whether to maintain the sale of live poultry, taking into account the current situation of the trade, preference of the public for live poultry, consumption of live poultry in Hong Kong, experience in comparable places and the views of stakeholders," a spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau said.
Upon completing the study, the consultant considers that the current AI measures adopted in Hong Kong are generally amongst the most comprehensive and stringent in the world, and are effective in preventing human infection of AI, as evidenced by the fact that there has been no locally infected human case of H5 or H7 AI virus in Hong Kong after 1997. A survey conducted by the consultant also revealed that a significantly larger share of people favour live poultry over freshly slaughtered ones. Though views of experts on public health and animal health are divided, local trade operators in general support maintaining the status quo in order to preserve the local culinary culture and to minimise the impact on the trade.
After collating the views of various stakeholders and studying local AI safeguarding measures, the consultant considers that the status quo for the poultry trade in Hong Kong can be maintained, i.e. to continue the sale of live poultry at retail level and not to ban the import of live poultry from the Mainland. At the same time, the consultant proposes a number of bio-security and safeguarding improvement measures along the supply chain, such as exploring the feasibility of introducing additional vaccination against H7N9 AI virus, strengthening pre-sale AI test on local chickens, relocating the wholesale poultry market and enhancing the separation of humans and live poultry.
The spokesmen said, "We will thoroughly consider the views of various stakeholders on the consultant's recommendations expressed during the period of the public consultation before finalising our decision on the way forward for the live poultry trade in Hong Kong."
The report of the consultancy study is available at the bureau's webpage (www.fhb.gov.hk/en/press_and_publications/consultation/170403_f_live_poultry_trade/index.html). Members of the public can submit their views by email (email@example.com), post (Food Branch, Food and Health Bureau, 17/F, East Wing, Central Government Offices, 2 Tim Mei Avenue, Tamar, Hong Kong) or fax (2102 2448) on or before June 3, 2017.
Ends/Monday, April 3, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:00
Issued at HKT 15:00