Just a third of poultry stalls meet standards

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 2008, 12:00am

Only a third of the 260 poultry stalls at 64 retail markets have met the hygiene requirements for the resumption of live chicken sales on Wednesday.

Officers warned they could break into stalls where the operators could not be contacted to do clean-up work if needed.

Under the rules, all poultry stalls in a market will have to close unless all stalls meet the requirements.

Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene Cheuk Wing-hing said 48 hours' notice had been served yesterday to hawkers who government inspectors had failed to contact.

Mr Cheuk said they were empowered by the law to get into such premises to do clean-up work. They did not want those who had cleaned their stalls and passed an inspection to be unable to do business.

The sales ban was imposed after the H5N1 virus were detected in environmental swabs taken from four local retail markets early this month.

It will expire on Wednesday, when new measures will be in place to ban overnight stocking. All unsold chickens will have to be slaughtered and no live chickens allowed in retail markets between 8pm and 5am the following day.

But traders have voiced opposition, saying the overnight-stocking ban will kill their trade. The government has offered a HK$1.1 billion overall compensation package to buy out their business so that they can leave the live poultry trade for good.

About 260 chicken retailers met on Saturday to discuss the compensation. About 80 per cent reportedly said they would accept the buyout.

Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said yesterday it was too early to comment on the response. 'As far as I know, not all of the chicken retailers showed up at the meeting. There were not more than 60 per cent of them.'

A delegation from the Hong Kong poultry industry visited Macau yesterday to see how the overnight-stocking ban had been operating in the city, where it has been a long-standing practice.

The chairman of the Hong Kong Poultry Wholesalers Association, Tsui Ming-tuen, who led the delegation, said: 'The Macau government's policy is more flexible. For example, the overnight-stocking ban is not adopted in case of a No 8 typhoon signal.'