Following the late April outbreak of the Novel H1N1 2009 influenza virus, Mexico stopped purchasing U.S. pork for a time, even though Mexico reported the first human case, and no hogs in the United States or elsewhere were associated with the episode.

U.S. pork product sales to Mexico dropped dramatically. Fortunately they have increased every month since then and as of August were nearly 40 percent higher in volume and 20 percent higher in value than in 2008.

According to Chad Russell, U.S. Meat Export Federation regional director for Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Central America, credited "aggressive" consumer education and marketing efforts to restore consumer confidence regarding pork's safety.

"We can take some credit for the campaign we had in terms of getting out science-based information to restore confidence among consumers," Russell says. He cites USMEF's focus on promoting pork at the supermarket level, as well as an aggressive radio campaign to get the accurate messages out.

Gerardo Rodriquez, USMEF director of trade development for the region, added that targeted marketing techniques are helping to build a loyal retail customer base for U.S. pork in Mexico. USMEF uses a database with which it can send weekly e-mails to known pork shoppers informing them where they can buy the product, new ways to cook it and other such information. "This is not only a one-time promotion," Rodriguez notes. "This is long term."