Processing Magazine

Pork industry assures customers pork is safe

April 27, 2009
U.S. pork producers, responding to the swine flu outbreak that has escalated into a public health emergency, said their product is safe and that consumers cannot catch the virus by eating properly cooked food, reports the Associated Press. The industry-funded 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 as the virus is said to have killed up to 86 people and likely sickened up to 1,400 in Mexico. 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. The stakes are high for U.S. pork producers, which export nearly $5 billion worth of products each year. 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 since the virus dies when cooked at temperatures of 160 degrees or higher. The pork producers'' group also noted that public health officials believe the virus is spreading from person to person, with no evidence indicating any of the illnesses resulted from close 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. Smithfield Foods Inc., the largest U.S. pork producer, said it has found no signs or symptoms of swine flu in its herds or workers at the company''s joint ventures in Mexico. The Smithfield, Va.-based company said those operations will submit samples from swine herds to The University of Mexico for testing. The company also noted that its joint ventures in Mexico routinely administer flu virus vaccinations to their herds and conduct monthly tests for the presence of swine flu. The National Pork Board recommended that pork growers consider limiting access to their farms to only employees, veterinarians and essential service workers, and preventing employees with symptoms of flu-like illnesses from contacting pigs, or other farm workers.