A Newcastle disease outbreak in Thailand is reported to have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of chickens which were then slaughtered and illegally sold on to consumers, restaurants and shops in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima.
The food scandal was revealed last week with livestock authorities reported to have tried to suppress the disease because of fears it may seriously harm the lucrative chicken export market.
Panya Chotitawan, chairman of Saha Farm Co, said the Nakhon Ratchasima scandal has caused domestic poultry meat consumption to drop by about 10%. Officials are now concentrating on chicken farms in neighbouring Saraburi as the sources of the illegally sold carcasses.
Large chicken farms in Saraburi have been vaccinating chickens against Newcastle disease, while livestock authorities were concentrating their efforts on domestic fowls. "Had it not been for this disease, the incident in Nakhon Ratchasima would not have happened," said one Livestock Development source.
Last Monday, abattoirs in the province were raided and about eight tonnes of decomposed chicken was seized. Police have laid charges against four of the 11 operators of the abattoirs.
"When you have 1,000 chickens die on average a day, that's a lot. So what farm owners may have possibly resorted to is getting rid of them quickly, but as we have learned several do not have standard disposal facilities," the source said.
Under the Disease Outbreaks Act, dead chickens commercially produced must be either buried or incinerated. However, the Animal Slaughter Control and Meat Sale Act allows farm owners to sell dead livestock if they are examined and approved by a veterinarian for sale.
Nirandorn Uangtrakoolsuk, who heads the Disease Control and Veterinary Bureau, said the department needed time to further investigate any farms' alleged involvement and a panel needed to be set up.
Any chicken farmer found to be still involved in the scandal would have their certificate revoked, he said.
Source: Bangkok Post