How Safe Are The Chicken We Eat?

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SRINAGAR: With dairy products under the scanner , the public is increasingly feeling perplexed about the other food products available in the market. Are other products safe for consumption? Is there a serious health risk involved in other consumables? If dairy products could go unchecked and unverified for years, what about other products and consumables that the public consumes on a daily basis?

One such consumable is poultry.

Kashmir being a valley of voracious meat eaters, sees huge sale in meat and poultry every year. 

Each year, Kashmir imports around 5.5 crore chickens from neighboring states of Haryana and Punjab. About 36 lakh chickens are produced locally and some 8000 youth in the state are running their own poultry farms. Yet, there are no specific rules and regulations to monitor or test these chickens for disease.

Experts have raised concerns about consumption of chickens available in the valley markets. These chickens not only have high fat content but about 80 percent of them are carriers of salmonella pathogens. A high dosage of antibiotics is injected in these chickens to increase their growth rate. Yet these clearly unhealthy chickens are being marketed at every nook and corner of the streets across Kashmir in utterly unhygienic conditions 

According to the Director, Animal Husbandry Department, Dr. Shams-ud-Din Makhdoomi, “The problem lies with the unhygienic slaughtering.  Old chickens may also be contaminated with infections like Campylobacter, Salmonella and E.coli.” “Once they are consumed by humans, they become susceptible to various diseases. The prevalence rate is higher within the premises of the poultry farms where chickens are bred. Unfortunately, in our state we don’t have enough health officers to regularly inspect the market as well as the farms,” he added.   

Dr. Syed Altaf Geelani, posted at the Hariparbat Poultry farm, says that a farm owner has to follow a stringent 3-pronged protocol. “Management, Bio-security and Vaccination are the three protocols every farm owner must follow,” he said. “Though vaccination is done from time to time, management is faulty and bio-security is non-existent.”

Dr Geelani said that spurious antibiotics are readily available in the market and the farm owners feed and inject their chicken with the same thus increasing the health hazards”.

Experts assert that cattle and chicken which are raised for flesh are often kept in small dingy sheds and fed large amounts of antibiotics and drugs to keep them alive in these inhumane conditions. Only after seven weeks of birth, these chickens are loaded in trucks and transported to various slaughterhouses. The cattle also meet a similar fate. Every year, thousands of chicken have their wings and legs broken in the process. They are transported in extreme weather conditions, sometimes over hundreds of miles, without any food or water. At slaughterhouses, chickens are hung upside down and their throats are slit. They’re often scalded to death in defeathering tanks.

Most of the poultry chicken spend their entire lives in crowded filthy sheds. Intense crowding and confinement leads to outbreak of disease and infections. Adult chickens can also have trouble breathing and standing upright and can even topple forward because they’ve been bred to have abnormally large breasts.

More than 99 percent of broiler chicken carcasses sold in stores had detectable levels of E. coli, indicating fecal contamination. With food adulteration on rise, why is there still no proper testing of poultry birds and cattle? Why are there no regulation on the antibiotic dosage fed to them by the farm breeders? Is our food and Drug control department waiting for a disaster to wake up to the mess of food adulteration? These questions need to be addressed on priority basis by the officials for public interest. It is time public health was given utmost important and measures were taken to ensure what we consume is safe and healthy.

According to Dr. Shamima Bano, Health Officer, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, SMC holds an inspection drive in Srinagar for three days every week in which officials check the sanitation and hygienic conditions under which the chickens and cattle are slaughtered. However, she admits, “We don’t test them for any diseases”. 

“Testing is done by our veterinary doctors at Pantha Chowk Livestock Centre before they are sent to the markets of Srinagar City.” 

She said, presently there is no mechanism to ensure that the chickens or meat available in the markets is infection free. A long time back, it was well within the purview of Srinagar Municipal Corporation to go for a disease check but this duty has now been handed over to the Drug Department,” Dr. Shamima added

All this points out clearly to the weak links in both the supply and value chain of poultry.  The various links in the chain are so weak that they are vulnerable to predatory behavior by some with clear-cut public health connotations and implications for the end consumer-the people of Kashmir. What is however not clear is whether this means criminal culpability, callous disregard for human life and welfare or just cavalier behavior on part of authorities, which is exploited by unscrupulous people. Whatever the case may be, at the end of the day, people and public health are at grave risk. 

RESPIRATORY DISEASES

Aspergillosis

Infectious Bronchitis

Quail Bronchitis

E. coli

Fowl Pox

Gapeworms

Infectious Coryza

Mycoplasmas

Newcastle Disease

Pullorum

DIGESTIVE DISEASES

Ascarid Worms

Blackhead

Capillaria

Cecal Worms

Coccidiosis

Necrotic Enteritis

Ulcerative Enteritis

E. coli

Fowl Cholera

Fowl Typhoid

Heximitiasis

Infectious Bursal Disease

Moniliasis

Pullorum

Tapeworms

 

SKIN AND FEATHER DISEASES

Cannibalism

Chiggers

Erysipelas

Fowl Cholera

Fowl Pox

Lice

Marek’s Disease

Mites

Omphalitis

Ticks

 

NERVOUS DISEASES

Aspergillosis

Botulism

Cage Layer Fatigue

Fowl Cholera

Heximitiasis

Infectious Bursal Disease

Marek’s Disease

Newcastle Disease

 

DISEASES WITH NON-CATEGORIZED SYMPTOMS

Blackhead

Botulism

Cage Layer Fatigue

Erysipelas

Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome

Fowl Cholera

Fowl Typhoid

Heximitiasis

Infectious Bursal Disease

Lymphoid Leucosis

Marek’s Disease

Moniliasis

Mycotoxicosis

Omphalitis

Pullorum

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