PHUKET TOWN: Phuket Provincial Livestock Office (PPLO) Chief Sunart Wongchawalit has declared poultry products grown in Phuket as safe for consumption. So confident is he that his office is organizing a special event to encourage islanders back into their chicken-eating ways. “We have collected 230 samples of fecal matter from all parts of the island and sent them to a lab in Surat Thani,” he told the Gazette today. “Of these, 193 tested negative for bird flu. We are still awaiting results on the remainder,” he said. The testing process takes about one week, and so far none of the samples has tested positive for the virus. K. Sunart said the testing regimen would continue, to ensure all parts of the island remain free of the disease. There are currently about 300,000 live fowl in Phuket, including quail and Barbary duck. Of the total, 120,000 are egg-laying hens. The Phuket government is continuing its ban on poultry and eggs from other provinces, but this may be partially relaxed, K. Sunart said. “We are considering allowing eggs back into Phuket,” he said. “If we do, each tray will first have to be soaked in chemical disinfectant and vehicles transporting them will need to be sprayed at Tah Chat Chai [police checkpoint].” Referring to a government-required cull of all birds found within a five-kilometer radius of an infected area, he said, “If we find even a single case of bird flu in a chicken, the island’s entire chicken population will likely need to be slaughtered.” But, he added, “I think it’s unlikely we will have an outbreak in Phuket because of the strict measures we are taking.” He said that supplies of both chickens and eggs in local markets are still sufficient to meet demand, and added that his department would campaign to show people that it is safe to eat chicken. He hopes that those now eschewing poultry will be tempted back into the chicken-chewing camp by a free chicken feast scheduled to start at 5 pm on February 7 at Saphan Hin. “We are inviting volunteers to help by cooking various chicken dishes at the event. Those who attend will get to eat chicken and eggs for free,” he said. Anyone interested in cooking at the festival may apply at the PPLO offices at 15/6 Amphur Rd. or call the PPLO at 076-216934 for further information.
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