Peruvian poultry producers on Thursday sought to reassure consumers that their chickens were bird-flu free, as poultry sales slumped amid fears of the disease spreading from Peru's northern neighbor, Colombia.
"Please consume chicken. There is no bird flu in Peru," Pedro Mitma, president of the Poultry Producers Association, said at a news conference.
He said figures show chicken consumption is down around 5 percent throughout Peru since reports that a mild strain of bird flu was detected in three poultry farms earlier this month in western Colombian.
"Eating chicken does not transmit bird flu," Mitma said.
The virus detected in Colombia was not the deadly H5N1 strain that has killed more than 60 people in Asia since 2003, and recently spread to Romania, Turkey and Russia.
Still, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Panama and Bolivia have all blocked imports of Colombian poultry products to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the producers association, chicken farmers sell 30 million chickens a year in this nation of 26 million people.
Mitma added that the drop in consumption "coincides with an overproduction," increasing producers' losses.
Supermarkets around Lima have been offering sales on chickens to spark consumer interest.
Luis Suarez, a senior Health Ministry official, told reporters that the government "is taking very strict measures" to avoid an outbreak of bird flu.
"Peru is free of bird flu. That is certain," he said, AP reported. V.A.