"Pork is safe to eat and handle," the U.S. pork industry continues to reassure people in the wake of a report from Canada that pigs in an Alberta pork operation may have contracted the Type A H1N1 virus. A worker who recently visited Mexico — and became ill with the flu — is suspected of transmitting the virus to a pig.
"People cannot get the flu from eating or handling pork," says Liz wagstrom, DVM, assistant vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board. "The flu is a respiratory illness, it's not a food-borne illness."
According to the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USDA, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security the H1N1 flu strain that has been contracted by 763 people worldwide cannot be transmitted by eating pork; it is not a food safety issue.
On May 2, the World Trade Organization, the OIE and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization issued a joint statement saying pork is safe.
"Influenza is not uncommon in pigs," Wagstrom notes, "but they recover, and it does not affect the safety or quality of pork. It is well known that influenzas are transmissible, and it is not a surprise that a flu virus might have passed from people to pigs. The bottom line is pork is safe to eat and handle."
Chris Novak, CEO of the National Pork Board, said Monday on the AgriTalk radio program that consumer surveys show that less than 10 percent of consumers are confused about pork safety in the wake of media coverage of the H1N1 virus. Click here to listen to the audio interview.