SCMP Monday, June 18, 2001

Workers' days off 'may help spread disease'


The practice of all poultry wholesalers and importers taking the same days off may trigger another bird flu breakout, it was claimed yesterday.
Speaking at RTHK's City Forum, the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Poultry Retailers' Association, Steven Wong Wai-chuen, said the Government should not allow wholesalers to be off on the 5th and 15th of each month.
"This is because we have to order double the amount before these two days and live chickens accumulate at stalls." Mr Wong said such a build-up would increase the risk of avian flu spreading.
Poultry stalls have to close on the 25th of each month for mass cleaning under new hygiene measures brought in after the latest bird flu outbreak while wholesalers also rested on the same day, Mr Wong said. He urged the Government to advise wholesalers and importer Guangnan Hong not to take breaks on the 5th and 15th.
Gloria Tam Lai-fun, assistant director of food and environmental hygiene (food surveillance and control) conceded the accumulation of large numbers of live chickens might aid the spread of disease. She said the Government would talk to the industry on the issue.