UAE says no ban on pork, but shops clear shelves
Abu Dhabi, May 2, 2009
The United Arab Emirates has not banned pork imports, a senior official said, but some supermarkets have pulled pig meat from their shelves as a precautionary measure against swine flu.
Several countries have banned pork imports although the World Health Organisation has said swine flu is not spread by eating pork.
"There is no decision to ban pork meat products," said Majid Al-Mansouri, secretary-general of the Environment Agency and member of a higher committee responsible for combating the flu.
The market for pig meat in the UAE is small, since it is a Muslim country where restrictions on the sale of pork products already apply.
Official figures were not available but two local food traders estimated the value of such imports to the UAE in 2008 at around $11 million. The UAE does not import live pigs.
Although there was no official federal ban, some supermarkets and local authorities had begun to take precautions.
Earlier on Thursday, a spokesperson for the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority said there was a ban on "all imports of pork products as a precautionary measure to protect consumers".
Supermarkets in Abu Dhabi said they had stopped selling pork and those in Dubai did not expect to receive fresh supplies. "We are not selling any pork products in Abu Dhabi," said Omar Khan, Spinneys supermarket store manager in the capital.
Gulf states are preparing to hold an emergency meeting in the next few days to coordinate efforts to combat swine flu, which has caused jitters on Gulf Arab stock markets.
The new H1N1 strain first emerged in Mexico and has killed up to 176 people there, according to Mexican authorities. So far, no Gulf country has reported any cases of the flu.
The UAE is the Middle East's main air travel hub but the country's health ministry said this week there were no restrictions on travel as yet.
Israel on Tuesday confirmed one case of swine flu, the closest the virus has come to the Arabian Peninsula.-Reuters