Bird flu: Delhi corporations ban sale, storage of poultry or processed chicken meat

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New Delhi, Jan 13 (PTI) Scrumptious omelette fry, juicy chicken tikkas and other non-vegetarian items will not be available in shops and restaurants in large parts of Delhi as the civic authorities on Wednesday imposed a temporary ban on sale and storage of poultry or processed chicken meat in view of the bird flu situation here.

Fish and mutton-based items, however, will continue to be on the menu in restaurants and be available in raw form for purchase at shops too, officials said.

All the three municipal corporations warned such establishments of strict action, including cancellation of their license, if they fail to comply with the orders.

The New Delhi Municipal Council, which constitutes nearly five per cent of Delhi areas, however, has not issued any official order on the ban, but said they are following the directions issued by the Delhi government with respect to bird flu. The government has not imposed any such ban similar to the one issued by all the three MCDs.

The ban comes two days after Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Giriraj Singh said that there is no need to be scared, urging people to eat items after cooking them properly at a particular temperature. He had also said that eggs are safe to eat.

The civic bodies' decision left the owners of meat shops and restaurants in the national capital worried as they termed the order 'needless' and said it would cause a huge loss to their businesses.

The North Delhi Municipal Corporation was the first to issue the ban order till further orders on Wednesday.

'Delhi along with several other states have been hit by the bird flu. So, authorities have decided to prohibit sale and storage of poultry or processed chicken meat by shops and restaurants and hotels with immediate effect, in view of the bird flu situation in the national capital,' North Delhi Mayor Jai Prakash said The order issued by the veterinary services department of the NDMC, also said that owners of restaurants and hotels will face action if egg-based dishes or poultry meat and other products are served to customers.

The order has been issued in public interest and should be diligently complied with, it said.

Hours after NDMC's order, two other civic bodies -- South and East MCDs -- on Wednesday also imposed a similar ban on sale and storage of poultry or processed chicken meat by shops and restaurants with immediate effect till further orders.

Delhi is home to a large number of eateries and streetside shops selling chicken-based items like seekh kebas, tikkas, chicken curry, chicken chowmein, which are relished by local food lovers and tourists.

Chandni Chowk, Matia Mahal opposite Jama Masjid, Uttam Nagar in north Delhi; Amar Colony Market, Jamia Nagar and Okhla and Punjabi Bagh Markets in south Delhi; and Mayur Vihar market in east Delhi are popular haunts for people, including youth, to enjoy non-vegetarian food.

In view of public health and safety, the SDMC has also asked people involved in poultry business to follow the prohibitory order properly.

'If violated, action will be taken by the deputy director (veterinary services) of all zones and their meat trade license will also be cancelled. Owners of restaurants are being ordered not to serve food containing poultry meat and eggs, otherwise penal action will be initiated against them as per the law,' the SDMC later said in a statement.

People are also being told to inform on helpline 011-23890318 if they find any sign of sickness or unnatural death of birds in their localities, civic officials said.

East Delhi Mayor Nirmal Jain said that EDMC authorities too have decided to take the decision in view of the situation here.

Anurag Katriar, president of the National Restaurant Association of India, said that the ban makes no sense.

'There is enough scientific evidence that any dish that is cooked at 70 degrees Celsius is safe for consumption. It would have been understandable had there been a restriction on the consumption of cold meat and salads. This ban will dampen the consumption of chicken which was already subdued,' Katriar said.

He said removing chicken from the menu will discourage customers from eating out.

Delhi Meat Traders Association general secretary Irshad Qureshi said that the ban is oblivious to the 'heightened hygiene' maintained at the poultry farms from where most of Delhi's chicken is sourced.

'Ninety per cent of the chicken that comes in Delhi is farmed in Haryana, and these farms have high levels of hygiene, and crores of rupees are spent to maintain and run these farms.

'And even after that, the fact that the meat will be cooked at high temperature removes all risk of contamination,' Qureshi said.

He said that the decision would 'destroy' not just their livelihoods, but also affect the general public.

Testing of samples of crows and ducks had confirmed bird flu cases in the national capital on Monday, prompting the city government to impose a ban on sale of processed and packaged chicken brought from outside the city. The Ghazipur poultry market has also also closed by authorities.

Several ducks at Sanjay Lake and a large number of crows across various city parks have been found dead in the last one week. Reports of over 50 bird deaths were received on a helpline of the Delhi government's animal husbandry unit, and 18 samples from different parts of the city were sent for avian flu testing on Tuesday, officials had said. PTI KND TRS GJS BUN AAR