Is the chicken you eat in restaurants healthy and halal?
Srinagar: Tonnes of dressed chicken are ‘illegally’ imported into Kashmir daily, even as the laboratory reports suggest that it may not be healthy or halal.
Every morning, nearly four to five truckloads of fish arrive in Chattabal and Khayam markets here.
Underneath the fish, chicken parts are carried in transparent polythene bags contained within ice in thermocol boxes.
As soon as the trucks arrive, load carriers queue up to grab their share of the supply to be transported to a particular area of Kashmir.
Restaurants and hotels in Srinagar and elsewhere are the principal consumers of this dressed chicken. Every restaurant, purchases more than 30- 150 kilograms of it at Rs 170 a kilogram.
However, a report based on the examination of the dressed chicken done by the Department of Animal Husbandry claims that these chicken are “unhygienic and not halal”.
The lab test report issued by the Animal Husbandry’s poultry department on 25-05-2017 claimed that the chicken samples that were collected in Srinagar markets showed high bacterial load in it.
As per the report, huge salmonella bacteria were extracted from these samples.
The laboratory test report said that the birds have not bled properly, thereby giving an evidence of their slaughter not as per the Islamic norms.
Sources in the Department of Animal Husbandry told The Kashmir Monitor that nearly 50 per cent of the poultry consumption in the valley comprised of the dressed chicken.
They said that the dressed chicken is not properly frozen and has maximum possibility of getting contaminated during its transportation of two to three days.
“If these chicken are to be sold then they need to be transported in reefer vans (refrigerated vans), which have a temperature below 30 degree Celsius. But as they are ferried in ice boxes, the pieces are chilled not frozen, which means they are unhygienic,” sources said.
They said the sample carcasses, as per rules, are to be examined by a veterinarian, which is not followed in case of Kashmir.
“Besides, there should be an anti-mortem examination before the slaughter of a chick, but who knows that the procedure has been followed. Further at times the chicken takes two to three days to reach here due to highway closure,” sources said.
Not just meat, but products of the chicken flesh in the form of kebabs are also sold, which the Food Safety Department has banned for sale and consumption a year ago.
Unloading a truck that arrived on Friday after days of highway closure, a seller said that the meat was being distributed to the entire valley.
“We cover entire valley with majority of chicken being supplied to the hotels and restaurants. We have varieties like chicken kebab as well, which requires only to be fried in oil before serving,” he said.
Asked whether it was hygienic for consumption, he said the frozen boxes would maintain favourable temperature of the meat.
“It is good to be consumed. Waise be tum hotel main logun ko ghass bhi do woh kha lenge (people who visit hotels if served can eat grass in the name of food),” he quipped.
Assistant Food Commissioner, Hilal Ahmad Mir, told The Kashmir Monitor that they have asked the sellers to follow norms properly.
He contested the reports by the Department of Animal Husbandry were not credible.
“They are not technical people there and don’t know about the law. We can’t stop them (dealers) from importing dressed chicken under law, which is Article 19 of Food Safety Act 2006. However, we are concerned whether the bird is slaughtered in halal way and brought in refrigerated vans,” he said.
Asked whether the Food Safety Department had ascertained about halal credentials of the suppliers, he said the video shared by the dealers of the valley suggested it is halal.
“They gave me the video in which the chicken was being slaughtered in a halal way,” Mir said.
Over use of ordinary trucks for ferrying the chicken meat by the sellers, Assistant Food Commissioner said the department has given them time period for using refrigerated vehicles only.
“I don’t know whether the time period has ended. Sometimes highway remained closed for days together and the chicken becomes unhygienic for consumption. Even last time we recovered spoiled chicken from them. There should a temperature below 30 Degree Celsius and proper environment,” he said.
Mir said that the chicken was transported in fish boxes to evade taxes on the way.
“I heard that fish is tax free commodity due to which they import dressed chicken in the fish boxes,” he said.
When the reporter informed him about the sale of banned chicken kebabs, he said he will take strict action against it.
“It is banned and we will raid them in case it is sold,” he said.
Last year the authorities had ceased quintals of the dressed chicken after finding it unhygienic for consumption and booked three dealers of the city.
The dealers later moved to the court and brought stay on the drive, which was ordered by the Divisional Commissioner Baseer A Khan.
Meanwhile, Kashmir Valley Poultry Farmers Association (KVPFA) claims the “illegal” import has ruined their market.
“These people want to earn money through easy and illegal means. But it should not be at the cost of our local market,” president KVPFA Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, said.
He also said the poultry farmers’ association intimated the government about the chicken products being illegally imported to the valley, but the government did not take action against the dealers.