Srinagar: How safe is the chicken meat that we consume in Kashmir? There’s no knowing, for neither is there any study, nor any monitoring process in the Valley to check the use of antibiotics in the poultry industry, which can lead to antibiotic-resistance among humans, making even simple illnesses incurable.
Of late, there has been growing concern across the world about the misuse of antibiotics, mostly as growth promoters, in the poultry industry. Recent studies indicate that the problem is rampant in many states of India, especially in poultry farms in Punjab. But what is the extent of antibiotic use in Kashmir’s poultry farms, nobody really is sure.
A senior veterinary official, wishing not to be named, told Kashmir Reader that farmers in Kashmir put chicken on slow antibiotics, which does not allow birds to fall sick for a short duration of time, during which they are disposed of in the market.
“It (slow antibiotics) makes the birds eat more and more, due to which their weight keeps on increasing,” the official said.
Poultry farmers use antibiotics like Ciprofloxacin and Nalidixic-Acid to enhance the growth of poultry birds, the official said. Ciprofloxacin is an antibiotic used to treat respiratory infection while Nalidixic-Acid is used to treat urinary tract infections. The antibiotics are mixed with the feed given to livestock, ultimately leading to antibiotic resistance among humans, he said.
A recent study by researchers from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) found that two-third of poultry farmers in Punjab reported using antibiotics as growth promoters.
Dr Abdul Rasheed Shah, retired deputy director of research at the Animal Husbandry Department, said that private poultry farmers in Kashmir feed antibiotics to livestock “just to enhance their business”.
“Once consumed by humans, it hampers the growth of normal micro-flora of stomach and intestines of human beings. It ultimately leads to disturbance in GIT (gastrointestinal tract) causing diarrhoea, mal-absorption of vitamins, and even liver damage,” Shah said.
Muqhtiyar Ahmad, Poultry Development Officer Budgam, told Kashmir Reader that farmers do not use antibiotics as growth promoters but resort to indiscriminate medication and continue antibiotics even after the bird becomes healthy.
“Antibiotics are supposed to be given as per requirement, but when farmers start it of their own, they don’t know when to stop it,” Muqhtiyar said.
“After being given antibiotics, there is a proper disposal time, but farmers do not wait for it and sell stocks as soon as they find customers,” the officer said.
Muqhtiyar said that human health was not the priority for poultry farmers, and as a result of overuse of antibiotics, several drugs become useless for treatment. “Nowadays, first, second and third-generation drugs have become irrelevant. Doctors now prescribe fourth-generation medicines,” he said.
Poultry Extension Officer Srinagar, Dr Gowher Nabi, who is also nodal officer of the World Organisation for Animals Health, believes that the use of antibiotics in poultry farms of Kashmir valley is rare.
He said that it is parent birds arriving from other states that carry antibiotic residue. “Parent birds are highly infected by antibiotics used on them. Parent birds are raised on antibiotics for two to three years,” Gora said, adding that the sale of parent stock for meat consumption was banned elsewhere, “but in Kashmir they are sold openly in the market”.
“These chickens are not even fed to dogs but here they are being allowed to be sold for human consumption,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner for Food Safety, Srinagar, Hilal Mir said that so far, chicken samples have never been tested for antibiotics in Kashmir.