Singapore Implements Temporary Ban on Japanese Poultry Imports Amid Bird Flu Outbreaks
Singapore has taken precautionary measures to suspend the import of raw poultry and poultry products from four prefectures in Japan.
This decision by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) follows recent reports of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), commonly called bird flu, outbreaks in the region.
The temporary ban specifically targets raw poultry imports from the prefectures of Saga and Kagoshima in the Kyushu region, as well as Ibaraki and Saitama in the Kanto region.
The first case of bird flu in Japan was recorded at a poultry farm in the southern prefecture of Saga on 24 November 2023, leading to the culling of over 40,000 birds on the farm.
The enforcement of the ban promptly began from 25 November to 3 December 2023, as highlighted by the SFA.
Poultry products that undergo heat treatment to deactivate the HPAI virus, following the guidelines set by the World Organisation for Animal Health, are exempt from this restriction.
Heat-treated poultry refers to products like processed food.
This measure is in line with international standards and ensures that properly treated poultry products can still enter the market.
The origin of this precautionary step lies in Japan’s recent identification of the HPAI virus in its poultry farms.
The first case was reported in the southern prefecture of Saga on 24 November, followed by the detection of the virus in a poultry farm in the eastern prefecture of Ibaraki three days later.
This was following Japan’s worst bird flu outbreak last October. The country had to cull a record 17.7 million poultry birds to contain the spread, resulting in a significant reduction in poultry and egg supplies.
This led to a surge in prices, and local authorities and farmers grappled with the challenge of disposing of the large number of culled chickens.
What Exactly is Bird Flu?
Bird flu is a respiratory disease found in, well, birds.
While most strains infect only animals, some strains, such as the HPAI virus, can be transmitted to humans who have very close contact with infected live or dead birds, or any discharge containing the virus.
If infected with the HPAI virus, symptoms in humans resemble that of common colds (cough, sore throat, fever and muscle ache).
According to SFA’s website, studies have shown that certain strains of bird flu can spread to all parts of an infected bird, including its meat.
Infected birds can also contaminate the inside and outside of their eggs. This means that there is a risk that those who handle or consume contaminated raw poultry meat and eggs can become infected with bird flu.
However, there is no evidence that bird and swine flu can be spread to people through the handling or consumption of thoroughly cooked poultry meat or eggs.
HPAI Outbreaks Reported in Other Countries Outside Japan
Singapore’s decision to impose temporary restrictions on poultry imports extends to these countries as well, as outlined in other circulars issued by the SFA.
SFA highlighted in an earlier media statement in February that it thoroughly evaluates countries to ensure they implement measures guaranteeing the absence of HPAI in exported poultry, poultry products, and eggs.
SFA also mandated that Singaporean poultry farms and slaughterhouses must enforce biosecurity measures, such as preventing wild birds from having contact with their poultry flocks.
On their website, it is written that “SFA continually monitors animal influenza outbreaks across the globe. SFA also works together with the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) cluster under the National Parks Board to protect Singapore from these viruses.”
According to SFA’s data in 2022, Singapore approved 30 countries as sources of poultry which includes chicken, duck, turkey, goose and quail.
Brazil, Malaysia and the United States are Singapore’s top sources of chicken.
SFA emphasises its collaboration with various stakeholders in the food industry to diversify sources of commonly consumed food, including chicken.
By doing so, the agency aims to mitigate the impact of disruptions from any single source, allowing importers to turn to alternative sources and maintain the stability of the country’s food supply.
Furthermore, SFA encourages consumers to remain flexible with their food choices in the face of potential disruptions.
To minimise the risk of contracting bird flu, SFA also advised consumers to cook poultry thoroughly. They should wash their hands with soap after handling raw poultry products.
The agency added that people should also avoid contact with wild birds and live poultry when overseas.
(First the raw beef patties in McDonalds and now this… Looks like the vegans have won another round.)
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