Making hybrid poultry meat, eggs safe for consumers  

Published: March 10, 2019 22:06:54 | Updated: March 12, 2019 22:09:33

Although apparently far away, the timeline -- longer than a decade -- given by the head of the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Central Council (BPICC) the other day to make locally produced poultry meat and eggs antibiotic-free is reassuring. The task, however, could prove a daunting one given the presence of thousands of home-based small poultry production units. Big players in the industry might achieve the target of producing meat and eggs without the use of antibiotics on poultry birds within a decade's time, but it may not be possible on the part of small producers to do so. The lack of awareness on the part of latter remains a major problem. 

To be honest, barring a few, consumers themselves are also not aware of the use of antibiotics on poultry birds and the possible residual effect of the same on their health. Some consumers, however, are found concerned by the alleged use of toxic tannery discards as poultry feed. Still they have been consuming hybrid poultry meat and eggs regularly without any complaint. Most consumers, in fact, do not have any option other than remaining dependent on hybrid poultry and cultured fish as far as their daily intake of protein is concerned. The production of indigenous variety of poultry birds, eggs and fish is too meagre to meet the demand and their prices are also beyond the reach of the majority of the consumers. Alternatives such as beef and mutton being pricey are consumed by them infrequently. As a natural consequence of the demand -supply mismatch of indigenous varieties of poultry meat, egg and fish, the production of hybrid poultry and cultured fish has soared locally and Bangladesh is now one of the leading producers of the items in the world.

There is no denying that unlike indigenous varieties the hybrid poultry or cultured fish do require special feed, constant care and, in some cases, use of protective antibiotics and vaccines. Safety concerns over the quality of chicken and fish feed and use of antibiotics are there. Allegations have it that some unscrupulous poultry and fish farms use toxic chemical-treated tannery discards as feed to save money. In such cases, toxins and antibiotic residues enter the food chain and leave a long-term effect on human health. Unfortunately, there is no official mechanism to check and regulate such harmful activities. The directorate of livestock neither has logistics and manpower nor enthusiasm to look into the allegations and take appropriate actions. The poultry and fishery sector has grown bigger over the years. But there is no effective control mechanism for it on the ground. The government does need to take the issue seriously since it involves physical wellbeing of the people.

The BPICC president at a functioned in Dhaka, however, offered some hope saying that the use of antibiotics in poultry industry has been coming down and 'probiotics and prebiotics' are being applied, instead. He expressed the hope that the poultry farms would no more be dependent on antibiotics after 2030 next. More than a decade is too long a time to accomplish the job. They should rather try to achieve the goal earlier. In the meanwhile, the trade bodies in the poultry and fishery sectors must ensure the use of quality feed for both poultry birds and cultured fish.

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