Flu fears prompt 20 countries to ban meat imports
May 4, 2009
Reuters reports that twenty countries worldwide have banned imports of pork and other meat in response to a flu virus that has infected both people and swine, according to documents from the World Health Organization. While the new H1N1 strain is not food-borne, fears that it may spread through animal products have prompted restrictions on live pigs, pork, cattle, poultry, livestock, feed and animal semen from countries with reported infections. The countries that have imposed bans include Russia, China, Switzerland, Croatia, Indonesia, Thailand and Ecuador. Most affect products from Mexico and the United States and some block imports from Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France, Israel, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Global trade in pork meat is worth about $26 billion a year. The three countries most affected by the bans announced to date -- Mexico, the United States and Canada -- are among the world''s top pork exporters, along with the European Union, Brazil, Chile, China and Hong Kong. Just days after the WHO announced it would change the virus name to "A-H1N1" to clarify it was spreading among humans and not pigs, a Canadian farm worker returning from Mexico was reported to have infected a herd of swine with it. Before the Canadian pig infection was announced, the WTO and three United Nations agencies including the WHO said that there was "no justification" for the imposition of trade restrictions on account of the H1N1 flu. But, a top food safety expert said that while pork meat posed no risks, extra precautions should be taken when handling live pigs to avoid spreading and catching the virus that the WHO says is on the brink of causing a pandemic. Under international trade rules, countries are allowed to stop imports of goods that are seen to pose health risks or fall short of sanitary standards.