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Hong Kong Chicken Wars Hotting Up

10 days until the Hong Kong Sevens!

For any American English speakers reading this, “hotting up” means “heating up.”

Sunday, imports of chickens from the mainland will resume after a three week hiatus because of a bird flu death in Guangzhou. Poultry industry spokesman, Wong Wai-Chuen says 20,000 imports a day, along with 20,000 from local suppliers isn’t enough and will drive 20% of the 500 stalls out of business. The government may indeed be limiting imports as part of a campaign to establish centralised slaughtering, which would end the supply and sale of live birds at the retail level. Many Chinese have always preferred to buy their chickens live and have them prepared while they watch. Centralised processing would supply only chilled chickens to the market.

I may be blind to all the cultural implications but I see only older people running the stalls and I see only older people or domestic helpers buying the live chickens. I would guess that the majority of Hong Kong people would be O.K. with buying chilled chickens. 40-50,000 live chickens a day is a compelling number so I could be wrong.

Meanwhile on CNN, an expert is saying that there is no way of knowing whether bird flu infections in poultry are being reported or not in mainland China. So the fact that we’ve heard nothing for three weeks means nothing. When asked if Hong Kong chicken inspectors (Anyone out there remember Louie Nye, on the Steve Allen show, acting the role of Harry Hathaway, Chicken Inspector from the Bronx?) would be inspecting poultry in Guangzhou, the Health, Welfare and Food Secretary, Mrs. Yau, said that it was the other side’s responsibility. Right!

In a rare act of political courage, delegates from Hong Kong to the Shenzhen People’s Political Consultative Congress (and aint that a mouthful) called for improvement in the Shenzhen’s food safety record as well as border controls. I hope something happens but I doubt if much will change. Perhaps it will take a case of someone in Hong Kong contracting the H5N1 virus before anybody will really do anything.

Meanwhile, I am buying only chicken imported from the U.S., Europe or Australia and making damn sure it’s cooked thoroughly – the best way to avoid any virus or germ problems.