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A total of 21 tons of frozen dressed chicken from Luzon are being put on hold to ensure that they are not contaminated with the dreaded avian flu virus, the National Meat Inspection Service in Region 10 (NMIS-10) said.

The chicken product arrived Tuesday at the Mindanao International Container Port in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental, and destined for local markets throughout Northern Mindanao, the MNIS said in a statement.

However, NMIS-10 Regional director Angelita Barcelona made it clear that the poultry product is safe for human consumption per the agency’s initial verification. She said the initial finding was based on visual inspection of the meat.

Dr. Barcelona clarified that the products are being put on hold at a cold storage facility in Tagoloan town because the agency was also verifying the authenticity of the documents attached to the shipment.

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She explained the NMIS-10 was not taking any chances and will reexamine the frozen broiler chicken before they are released to the local market. She pointed out that the chicken product will remain safe for consumption for at least two years if kept in a cold storage.

Barcelona disclosed that the frozen chicken was already declared “bird flu-free” by the NMIS office in Quezon City, which cleared it for transport to Mindanao on August 8.

The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), in its August 11 memorandum, disallows movement of live domestic and wild birds including poultry meat, day-old chicks, eggs and semen, and even manure, from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao, and from Pampanga to other parts of Luzon.

“This temporary ban will take effect until such time that no new cases are reported 21 days after the depopulation of the affected areas,” said the memorandum, signed by Dr. Enrico Garzon Jr., DA assistant secretary for Livestock and BAI director.

Barcelona said they have yet to hear of reports of incidence of avian flu in the region but the NMIS-10 has remained on alert for possible cases of the illness that has already killed thousands of birds in poultry farms in some areas in Pampanga.

Meanwhile, the DA-10 has assured local consumers in Northern Mindanao that the poultry products sold in the local markets remain safe. It added that the region has sufficient stock of chicken meat.

According to the data provided by DA-10, Northern Mindanao ranked third among the chicken growers in the country, producing a total of 11 percent of 19,596,441 heads contribution to the national supply annually.

Region 10 is also the eighth top grower of ducks with a total of 4 percent or 444,064 heads produced annually. (PNA/JJJ)

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