CHINA - The authorities in Guangdong province in China are to clamp down on live poultry markets in urban areas because of concerns over the potential spread of avian influenza.
A regulation on poultry trading and management was signed by the provincial government and came into force this week
City governments are to establish restricted areas for the live poultry trade in urban areas, said Wu Shengming, deputy director of the general office of the provincial food safety commission.
No more than three live-poultry retail markets will be allowed in each area.
In other markets, only cold-processed poultry - birds slaughtered at a registered plant and stored at between 0°C and 4°C - will be available.
No new live poultry wholesale markets will be approved in the restricted areas.
Mr Wu said that Guangdong is a province with a very large population and has an important role to play in the prevention and control of avian influenza.
Two human cases of H7N9 bird flu infection have been confirmed in the province since November, and one man died of the disease, according to the provincial Health and Family Planning Commission.
The government launched trial sales of cold-processed poultry in some districts in Guangzhou, Foshan and Shenzhen in May.
"However, it takes time for people to accept this type of poultry, and the sales volume has fluctuated greatly," Mr Wu said.
Some retail stalls that are trading in cold-processed poultry are selling privately slaughtered poultry, rather than birds from registered suppliers, because of a lack of regulation, the Chinese agriculture ministry said.
The new regulation sets out requirements for the production and trade of live and cold-processed poultry, risk control and legal liability.
It requires live poultry markets to be sterilised every day, thoroughly cleaned every week and closed for cleaning once a month.
No live poultry may be kept in retail markets at night.
The guidance on the building of slaughterhouses and live markets has been set out by the provincial agricultural and commerce departments. The rules for live markets cover location, equipment, space allocation and the disposal of waste.
Hygiene requirements for the production and trading of cold-processed poultry have been drawn up by the provincial and health authorities.
Luo Zhanguang, deputy director of the animal husbandry and veterinary bureau under the provincial Department of Agriculture said Guangdong's poultry slaughterhouses have a combined daily capacity of 700,000 birds, but are only supplying 270,000.
He said he is confident the province will have sufficient supplies of cold-processed poultry in the future.
Mr Wu said the new regulation will help to improve hygiene in urban areas and help poultry businesses to withstand the operational risks of an epidemic.
"Cold-processed poultry will be increasingly accepted as society advances," he said.