The News Minute | February 6, 2015 | 9:29pm IST
Beijing : With just a few days to go before the Chinese New Year, which people celebrate with an abundance of food and merrymaking, China's government has launched a campaign to prevent virus infections caused by eating "strange food" such as rats, snakes and bats.
Authorities in charge of food safety urged citizens Friday not to consume "wild animals", and above all, not to "go over the top", as it is common for people in certain parts of the country to come up with astonishing dishes, using animals not commonly found on the dinner table.
In the southern Canton province, for example, people savour preparations made from snakes and rats, which is why the authorities are urging everyone, particularly old people, children and pregnant women, to abstain from what it calls strange dishes.
The government has announced the start of inspections around the country, in an attempt to reduce diseases caused by eating such food during the New Year festival, also known as Spring Festival in China, which falls Feb 19 this year.
During this year's festivities, the Chinese will see off the Year of the Horse and welcome the Year of the Sheep, as every year is represented by a different animal.
The government's concern over the issue is not unwarranted, since a 2013 study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences revealed that the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS virus that caused a pandemic in 2002 blamed for 800 deaths in China, came from a local species of bat.