The small crowd seems like a permanent fixture at one booth at the Macau Food Festival. Some of the curious can't help squirming as they view the offerings on sale. A roasted hairy spider costs 150 patacas. Centipedes, scorpions and tender sparrows are also available. The cook, raving about his specialty cuisine from Hubei province , urges the staring onlookers to try the creatures. 'In this day and age, we are threatened by bird flu, human flu and all kinds of diseases,' he said. 'We need to redefine what is edible and what is not edible. So you should try it out yourself.' That was a shrewd line - in keeping with Macau people's strange way of defining what is safe to eat. At Nam Van Lake, prominent signs put up by the Civil and Municipal Bureau warn that anything caught there is unsafe to eat. But, night after night, residents bring nets and fishing rods to catch fish and soft-shelled crabs, as if the lake were a free-for-all wet market. One woman said she ran a small restaurant where the crabs would make a delicious dinner. 'After the rain, many crabs come out,' she said. 'This is the latest popular sport of Macau!' Then there are people who profit from smuggled chicken and pork meat. As a bird flu outbreak becomes a regional concern, meat smugglers expose Macau to greater risk. Yet this illicit traffic is carried out in full view of authorities. At the border crossing at Gongbei , Zhuhai , they can be seen making repeated trips through passages marked: 'For visitors [making] multiple entries per day.' The rising risk of a bird flu outbreak may force authorities to crack down, as they did last Saturday, when customs officials arrested a Northern District woman on suspicion of selling smuggled meat. Some local restaurants may be regular clients who buy the meat, they said. Luckily, most tourists visiting Macau are not smuggling in food. Instead, they take it the other way, loading up with bags of edible souvenirs such as almond cakes and Portuguese-style egg tarts. Many people do their shopping before visiting a casino, leaving such items in the checked-luggage room while they gamble, eat or drink inside. Last week, an elderly woman from Hong Kong found out the hard way that there is one item casinos will not store in their check-in area: salted fish, with its pungent smell. She failed to persuade the Sands staff to keep her fish for a few hours. So she hid the package behind a rubbish bin near the Sands' entrance while she went inside. When she returned, the fish was gone. She searched for her souvenir frantically, but quickly realised the truth: 'Well, even if I found it, it would be too dirty to eat anyway.' Sour grapes, anyone?