In absence of monitoring by authorities, sale of unhygienic dressed chicken is going on unabated in various markets of summer capital.
The chicken stocks, brought from outside the state in large thermocol boxes, in the guise of fish is being openly sold in the city markets.
Despite Drug and Food Control Organisation (DFCO) destroying three quintals of unhygienic imported dressed chicken in various parts of Shaher-e-Khaas and its adjoining areas on Wednesday, several such shops are still openly selling these items.
Interestingly, a shop right outside the Directorate of Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs ( FCSCA) is selling dressed chicken, usually breast pieces for Rs 220 per kilogram.
A senior FCSCA official said "health and hygiene of food is not under the purview of the department,". However, he said the department has been conducting regular joint market checking with DFCO and Legal Meteorology Department.
"Recently, we jointly penalized a boiler chicken shop at Barzulla who was selling chicken in the most unhygienic conditions. This shop was supplying unhygienic chicken to some of the top hotels and restaurants in the city. We will intensify our drive against such violators but as far imported dressed chicken is concerned, it does not fall under our purview," he said.
Assistant Commissioner (Food Safety), DFCO, Hilal Ahmad Mir said a consignment of three quintals of stale dressed chicken was seized and destroyed from Chattabal, Safakadal, Eidgah and Khanyar areas on Wednesday.
Mir said although dressed poultry items transported to Kashmir are packed with ice cubes in thermocol boxes but added that "importers and traders of dressed chicken have failed to maintain a cold chain".
"With trucks having been stranded on the highway for days, ice cubes in the boxes carrying dressed chicken had melted and the stocks had become stale due to bacterial contamination. We appeal general public to avoid buying such dressed poultry from vendors and shops. With temperatures expected to increase in days to come, the possibility of such chicken stocks turning stale are more," Mir said.
Pertinently, since the import of dressed chicken to Kashmir does not have a liability of sales tax, the state government in its recently announced budget had increased the toll tax to Rs 900 per quintal on dressed chicken under SRO 40.
According to a senior Excise Taxation Officer at Lakhanpur, the department regularly conducts checks to ensure that importers don't supply dressed chicken in guise of fish "since toll tax for fish is lesser than Chicken and is Rs 253 per quintal". However, he said with a huge number of trucks passing through the toll post everyday "it is logistically difficult to check each truck for 'hidden dressed chicken'", he said.
"Although we have penalized several such trucks with wrong declaration of goods but usually it is difficult to detect import of such goods. Supply of dressed chicken is cheaper for dealers since it is sales tax free and they make it even cheaper by getting them in fish boxes," the official said.
To mention, a Live Stock Check Post of Animal Husbandry at Lower Munda on Jammu-Srinagar highway is designated to keep a check on import of dressed poultry items. However, according to Director Animal Husbandry, Kashmir, Dr Muhammad Yousuf Chaproo detecting trucks carrying dressed chicken is a "difficult task" as boxes are often hidden in goods trucks.
"But we have directed officials to keep a strict check on both live and dressed poultry. The powers on the ground lie with CAPD and SMC to ensure that such unhygienic goods are not sold in the market. Recently we have met representatives of poultry segment and assured them that we will ensure that a strict check is kept on import of dressed poultry since it also pinches the locally produced poultry," said Chaproo.