Responding to a swine flu outbreak that has escalated into a public health emergency, U.S. pork producers said Sunday that their product is safe and that people cannot catch the virus by eating properly cooked food.
The National Pork Board said it "wishes to reassure the public that pork is safe and will continue to be safe to consume." The statement comes as multiple nations increase their screening of pigs and pork imports from the Americas or are banning them outright. U.S. officials say the virus has been found in New York, California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio, but so far no fatalities have been reported.
With approximately one-fourth of the pork produced in the United States going abroad, the stakes are high for the U.S. pork industry exports as well. Last year, pork producers shipped a record 2 million metric tons of pork valued at nearly $4.9 billion.
The organization pointed to a statement by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that swine influenza viruses "are not spread by food" and that eating properly handled pork and cooked pork products is safe.
The pork producers' group also noted that public health officials believe the virus is spreading from person to person, with no evidence indicating any illness resulted from contact with pigs.
However, Russia has banned the import of meat products from Mexico, California, Texas and Kansas. South Korea has said it will increase the number of its influenza virus checks on pork products from Mexico and the U.S.
The National Pork Board's president, Steve Weaver, said “the organization is urging pork producers to take extra biosecurity precautions to ensure the good health of our animals and for all those who provide care for the animals."
The NPB recommended that pork producers consider limiting access to their farms to employees, veterinarians and essential service workers only. In addition, farms should prevent employees with symptoms of flu-like illnesses from contacting pigs.