Srinagar: In the wee hours every day, scores of trucks loaded with fish arrive at Srinagar markets of Chattabal, Khayam and Nowgam. The fish are stored in thermocol ice boxes, but it is not only fish that the boxes contain. Chicken parts wrapped in transparent polythene bags are concealed beneath the fish. The chicken parts are then supplied to different parts of the valley through load carriers or vehicles that are already waiting in queues at the markets.
Last year, a team from Animal Husbandry department raided the fish markets and seized samples of the dressed chicken. Investigations reported that the chicken meat was neither hygienic nor halal.
Dr Altaf Geelani, who headed the team, told Kashmir Reader that the seized chicken parts were concealed in boxes of fish in a very bad condition. The chicken had haemorrhagic lesions on muscles and were confiscated immediately, he said.
“We took the sample for laboratory examination and handed over about 2 quintals of recovered chicken to Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) which they later destroyed,” Dr Geelani said.
A report issued by the department later termed the chicken samples as unhygienic and not-halal.
The report stated that a huge bacterial count was found on the sample (more than the normal), containing Salmonella bacteria which is the main cause of food poisoning. The birds hadn’t bled properly, indicating they had not been slaughtered as per the Islamic method.
“During the inspection at various markets, the dealers failed to produce any bill and toll tax documents,” Dr Geelani said. “The supplied chicken didn’t have any labels, their origin and date of slaughter, batch number, best before or expiry date, name of processing plant, and recommended storage temperature. It was evident that the supplied chicken was not only being imported illegally but was also unhygienic and non-halal.”
Geelani said the dressed chicken isn’t properly frozen, which invites bacterial contamination. The slime coat on fish contains bacteria. Once the fish and chicken are handled together, there are high chances that the chicken will get bacterial infection, he said.
“The only possible way to transport the chicken here is in frozen form. In order to import it, reefer vans (refrigerated vans) are needed. But the chicken is packed in thermocol ice boxes that contain fish and transported in ordinary trucks. The scientific protocol doesn’t allow it,” he said.
“It will take days for the truck to reach here from other states. As per any of the scientific parameters, it is not fit for human consumption,” he added.
Before slaughtering chicken, Dr Geelani said, there should be a proper anti-mortem examination to check whether the chicken is good for human consumption or not. But nothing such is done.
Sources told Kashmir Reader that the dressed chicken is provided to fast food restaurants at a low cost. “Normally, dressed chicken costs around Rs 184 per kilogram, but they get it at Rs 130 per kilogram,” they said.
Dr Mohammad Yousuf Chaproo, Director, Animal Husbandry, told Kashmir Reader that the department had acted on the complaints it received.
“Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmed Khan had ordered drives against it but the mafia involved moved court and obtained a stay on the order. Now the matter is in court,” he said.
Mohammad Manzoor Dar, Secretary, Poultry Dealers Association, said that the supply of chicken in fish boxes poses risk to human health, but the authorities are least bothered about it.
“There is no guarantee whether the imported dressed chicken is halal or not. Those who sell it don’t eat it themselves,” he said.
Food Safety Commissioner, Hilal Ahmed Mir, told Kashmir Reader that the import of dressed chicken cannot be banned. Asked if the Food Safety and Standards Act allowed chicken and fish to be supplied together in the same box, he said, “We have told them to transport the chicken in refrigerated vans. We have given them time of three months.”
However, when reminded that the three-month deadline had already passed, Mir refused to comment.