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22.11.2007 Health

Journalists schooled on reporting on Avian Influenza

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The practice of women serving their families with fresh chicken soup and sauce, is gradually been eroded with the influx of cheap imported poultry parts, Dr George Opoku-Pare, Deputy Director and Head of the Accra Central Veterinary Laboratory has said.

He said, "before the advent of frozen poultry products in the country, women in particular would want to serve their families with fresh chicken soup and sauces, delicately prepared with expert touch, but this practice has gradually been eroded with the gradual influx of cheap imported poultry parts, which is creating a lot of health dangers for consumers."

Dr. Opoku-Pare, who was addressing journalists at a three-day workshop on reporting on Avian Influenza (AI) or Bird Flu, expressed worry over the fact that there was limited knowledge on modes of preparation, as well as faked origin of such imported poultry products which posed great health risks to the nation.

"Most of these poultry products have often been found to be unwholesome, confiscated and destroyed, yet others had found their ways onto the market," he said.

He said the need to critically examine the sources of these imported poultry products was crucial with current reporting of established cases in most Asian and Scandinavian countries, to ensure that the country was rid of unwholesome poultry products and further encourage the consumption and patronage of local poultry.

About seven journalists, facilitators from the Veterinary Services and the Ghana Health Services attended the workshop, organised by AI.COMM, an Organisation which deals with issues regarding the Bird Flu. They are discussing issues, including the role of journalists in the prevention and control of AI and would visit some local poultry farms and retail markets for closer observation of approved practices.

Dr Opoku-Pare said the current situation where most valuable cultural practices such as family preparation of poultry for the family was gradually eroding regardless of the consequences, giving way to the desire for quick services of "hot dressed chicken by unknown retailers was worrying, considering its numerous health implications.

He called on the government to expedite its plans of establishing poultry slaughter plants in various parts of the country, to serve as a stop gap for both local commercial poultry farmers, large scale poultry consumers, as well individual consumers.

He stressed that when established, these poultry slaughter plants would provide hygienic slaughtering conditions, ensure wholesomeness, job creation, eliminate the spread diseases such as the AI and also provide secure and timely delivery of poultry products to consumers.

He also said the plant would also eliminate the current practice whereby retailers on the local fowl market slaughter and dress poultry for their customers under highly unhygienic conditions.

Dr Opoku-Pare said with swift change in the socio-economic lives of Ghanaians, there was going to be a rise in public demand for already prepared poultry products, as well as fast food therefore the need to grasp the challenge to provide quality and wholesome products should not be compromised at all.

"This will ensure food safety, healthy lifestyles, and enhanced revenue," he said

He advised consumers against compromising their health with cheap imported products, having in mind the AI and other contiguous diseases that may mutate from birds unto humans.

According to Dr Francis Kwabena Peterson, Deputy Director of Veterinary Services and Greater Accra Regional Veterinary Officer said the gradual practice of retailers preparing live poultry for their customers should be greatly discouraged as this opens the door for contamination and the spread of diseases.

He said though there were bye-laws prohibiting such act, enforcement had been a great challenge to ensuring compliance.

Participants were taken through the practicality and importance of Biosecurity on poultry farmers, which involves practices including ensuring total protection for farm workers, fencing of farm, disinfecting every vehicle, human or article that enters the farm, to prevent the introduction of infection or diseases.

Ms Michelle Betz, the Programme Co-ordinator, encouraged networking and collaboration among journalists and health experts for more knowledge and information on health issues such as the AI, so that the could accurately report for proper mass education.

She said the need for specialisation was crucial for journalists to better understand certain technical jargons as well as give proper insight for enhanced reportage.