Lost appetite for 'instant chickens'

Updated: 2013-01-07 07:37

By He Na, Yang Wanli and Shi Baoyin (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Antibiotics battle

In Yao's opinion, the 45-day growth period is not problem in itself, but he, like other experts, viewed the excessive use of antibiotics as a major concern.

"No matter if it's poultry farming or clinical treatment, the use of antibiotics should be strictly limited. Antibiotic abuse will inevitably lead to bacteria developing a higher resistance to the drugs. In some cases, the overuse of unnecessary antibiotics may result in bacterial variations," said Ji Lianmei, a pharmacist at Beijing United Family Hospital.

Lost appetite for 'instant chickens'

Inspectors from the industry and commerce bureau in Zaozhuang, Shandong province, check frozen chickens at a local food market. Li Zongxian for China Daily 

"It doesn't mean people should panic about antibiotics. The correct use of antibiotics in poultry farming is necessary to keep the birds free from disease and their high metabolism of drugs will help to expel the antibiotics from the poultry naturally," he said.

"But the flesh of poultry that haven't fully metabolized the drugs will still contain antibiotic traces and if people eat the meat they will also take in the antibiotics. Although the dosage is lower than that prescribed in hospitals, it may still have a negative effect if it accumulates," said Ji.

Huang Yonghuai, a veterinarian at a chicken farm in Sichuan province, said antibiotics are commonly added to the feed given to chicks to prevent disease. "But they should not be added to the feed given to adult chickens, except when they are sick," he said

The Ministry of Agriculture hasn't yet established a specific regulation to define "proper use" or "abuse" of antibiotics, said Huang. But he added that certain types of antibiotics, those normally only used to treat humans, are not allowed in the treatment of sick poultry. "But some farms have exploited legal loopholes, and that has led to the scandal," he said.

"If overused, the antibiotics will also kill the good bacteria in the chickens, reducing their ability to remain healthy," he added.

"Instant chicken" has become a hot topic on the micro blog service, Sina Weibo, with many posters expressing their anger about the issue and also their concerns about food safety in China.

Zhu Yi, associate professor at the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering at China Agricultural University, suggested that supervision departments should pay more attention to "antibiotic chicken", just as they did to pigs when the news broke about the illegal addition of carnosine to pork.

"Nowadays, farmers can't get rich simply by planting crops. The agricultural and related products processing industry has great potential. For these products, including poultry, we encourage large-scale professional, standard production procedures," said Qin Fu, director of the institute of agricultural economics and development at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

Lost appetite for 'instant chickens'

Scientists from Tianjin Academy of Agricultural Sciences regularly take blood samples from chickens to check the health of the birds at the academy's farm. Liu Haifeng / Xinhua 

"However, driven by the need to maximize profits, many poultry farmers choose to go against standard production rules, such as raising too many chickens in too small a space, and neglecting sanitation at the farms. Chickens raised in poor environments such as these are vulnerable to sickness, so it's inevitable that farmers will overdo the use of antibiotics," said Qin.

Government departments, such as quality supervision, inspection and quarantine, have failed to detect this deep-rooted problem, and a lack of supervision also needs to be blamed. The "instant chicken" case has once again indicated that many loopholes still remain in food safety legislation, he added.

"Science and technology can change people's lives and greatly increase productivity. But that doesn't mean we can go against nature or the rules, because that's always a dangerous path to tread," he warned.