USDA, NPPC say pork is safe

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By Janie Gabbett on 4/27/2009


Both USDA and the National Pork Producers Council on Sunday sought to fight fear with facts as global alarm over an outbreak in Mexico and in some U.S. states of a hybrid strain of swine influenza in humans started to spook U.S. pork importers.

Over the weekend Russia suspended meat imports from Mexico and from several U.S. states.

"According to scientists at USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swine flu viruses are not transmitted by food, so you cannot get swine flu from eating pork or pork products," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement Sunday night. "There is no evidence at this time showing that swine have been infected with this virus," he added.

"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 said in a statement earlier on Sunday.

As a precaution, NPPC urged pork producers to tighten their existing biosecurity protocols to protect their pigs from this virus, including restricting public access to barns.

USDA also ordered extra precations. While affirming USDA already systematically monitors animal health, Vilscak said, "As an additional precautionary measure, I have asked USDA to reach out to agriculture officials in every state to affirm that they have no signs of this virus type in their state."

NPPC listed the following, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

  • 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.
  • There are no food safety issues related to the hybrid flu that has been identified, according to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.
  • Preliminary investigations have determined that none of the people infected with the hybrid flu had contact with hogs.
  • This virus is very different from that found in pigs.
  • The hybrid virus never has been identified in hogs in the United States or anywhere in the world.
  • The hybrid virus is contagious and is spreading by human-to-human transmission.


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