USDA announced Friday that it is conducting "confirmatory" testing for the Novel H1N1 virus on swine samples collected at the 2009 Minnesota State Fair between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1.

The following is a statement from the National Pork Producers Council regarding confirmatory testing for Novel H1N1 virus in U.S. pigs.

Given today’s statement by the USDA that it is conducting ‘confirmatory testing’ on swine for the novel H1N1 virus, the National Pork Producers Council is reiterating that pork is safe to eat and handle and that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu viruses cannot be transmitted through food, including pork.

Additionally, the U.S. government has strict safeguards in place to protect the safety of the U.S. food supply. All pork found in retail stores and restaurants is inspected to the rigors of USDA standards for wholesomeness, and every pig is inspected to ensure that only healthy pigs enter the food supply.

The ‘confirmatory tests’ are being conducted on swine samples collected at the 2009 Minnesota State Fair between August 26 and September 1. According to USDA’s statement, the pigs sampled at the time showed no signs of illness and were apparently healthy.

NPPC also echoes USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s pronouncement that, like people, pigs routinely get sick or contract influenza viruses. Indeed, pigs in other countries previously have contracted the novel H1N1 flu.

Since the H1N1 flu was first reported in late April, NPPC and the National Pork Board have urged pork producers to tighten their existing biosecurity protocols to protect their pigs from the virus, including restricting public access to barns.

According to the National Pork Board, the announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday that tests are being conducted to determine if three pigs from the Minnesota State Fair in August are the first confirmed cases of the Novel H1N1 virus in the U.S. swine herd provides an opportunity to stress three important messages:

  • Regardless of the outcome of the tests, you cannot get the H1N1 flu from eating pork. Pork and pork products remain safe to eat and handle.
  • Scientific studies conducted by the USDA have proven that the H1N1 flu is a respiratory virus, not a food-borne illness, and it is not found in the blood or meat of pigs exposed to the virus.
  • The two most important steps you can take to protect you and your family from the H1N1 flu are to wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

"I would like to echo the comments of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack," said Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board. "People cannot get this flu from eating or handling pork." 

Read the USDA news release.

Read more on H1N1 influenza.

Pork feature —  H1N1: Not If, But When.

Source: NPPC, NPB