Pork is safe to eat, U.S. suppliers say

U.S. pork producers on Sunday began publicly working to reassure consumers about the safety of their product as the number of confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States and abroad continued to grow.

As of Sunday, there were 20 confirmed cases of the new swine flu in the U.S. states of California, Kansas, Ohio, Texas and New York, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus has already sickened hundreds and killed dozens in Mexico, reported the Associated Press. In addition, there are six confirmed cases of swine flu in Canada and several suspected cases in New Zealand, Spain, France, Israel and Brazil, according to AP reports.

Citing facts, figures or statements from U.S. officials, the National Pork Producers Council said in a statement on Sunday: "Pork is safe to eat, and direct contact with swine is not the source of, and U.S. pigs have not been infected with, the hybrid influenza that has been identified in a number of people in the United States and more than 1,300 in Mexico.

“NPPC wants to assure domestic and global consumers about the safety of pork and urges pork producers to tighten their existing biosecurity protocols to protect their pigs from this virus, including restricting public access to barns,” the statement went on to say.

The NPPC release can be found at http://www.nppc.org/News/PressRelease.aspx?DocumentID=24676 [3]. Citing CDC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it adds: “People cannot get the hybrid influenza from eating pork or pork products. Most influenza viruses, including the swine flu virus, are not spread by food. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.”

The World Health Organization of Geneva, which has declared the unfolding swine flu outbreak "a public health emergency of international concern," described U.S. cases of the virus as mild, and that only one has required brief hospitalization.

The CDC advised that sick people should stay home from work or school, and that frequent hand washing can reduce transmission of respiratory illness, such as flu. However, the agency has yet to advise consumers to halt travel abroad. The CDC's homepage on swine flu developments can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ [4].

Domestic developments contrast with events overseas and the reactions of some foreign governments to growing accounts of illnesses in multiple countries with possible links to the swine flu outbreak.

Reports by the Associated Press and Reuters, among other news agencies, indicate that some foreign governments have placed, or are planning, restrictions on pork imports and are monitoring visitors from Mexico and other countries with confirmed swine flu cases for signs of illness. At Tokyo’s Narita Airport, the AP said, devices that measure human body temperatures are being used to screen incoming Mexican visitors for signs of fever, and thermal sensors to accomplish the same ends are in use at some South Korean airports.

Plans to quarantine anyone with symptoms of the new illness are in the making in multiple countries, including China, Russian and Taiwan, the AP indicated.

Mexican authorities have ordered the cancellation of public gatherings, such as concerts and sporting events, and required the closing of schools and other places where large numbers of people regularly gathered.

The Associated Press reported that Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Saturday assumed new powers to isolate infected people, and inspect homes and travelers' baggage.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected] [5].