Uncomfortable facts about the swine flu outbreak
Don’t associate U.S. pork with the swine flu outbreak — you can’t catch it through pork. Plus, no pigs on U.S. CAFOs are infected with it.
That’s message the industry and the USDA are straining to get across, anyway. Except … you can catch swine flu from pork, according to the World Health Organization. Here is the Reuters:
Meat from pigs infected with the new H1N1 virus shouldn’t be used for human consumption, the World Health Organisation cautioned on Wednesday, adding it was drawing up guidelines to protect workers handling pigs.
The WHO … said it was possible for flu viruses to survive the freezing process and be present in thawed meat, as well as in blood.
“Meat from sick pigs or pigs found dead should not be processed or used for human consumption under any circumstances,” Jorgen Schlundt, director of WHO’s Department of Food Safety, Zoonoses and Foodborne Diseases.
Yikes. And that bit about how the U.S. hog herd is free of H1N1? Here is The Wall Street Journal:
While Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says there is “no evidence” of the new swine flu in U.S. pigs, the federal government doesn’t aggressively search for it on farms.
Mr. Vilsack’s statement is designed to bolster the Obama administration’s argument that U.S. consumers and trading partners haven’t any reason to shy away from eating U.S. pork. But the observation isn’t based on any extensive sampling program of the sort that is used by the federal government to alert it to other animal disease, such as mad-cow disease and bird flu.
Indeed, only in recent months has the Agriculture Department begun organizing a federal pilot program for screening pigs for flu. And that move came at the prodding of officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC officials have been worried that pigs might serve as a “mixing vessel” for a flu virus capable of sweeping through the human population. The pilot program has yet to begin to collect samples. [Emphasis added.]
The article continues: “[V]eterinary experts say it’s impossible to know whether U.S. pigs are free of the new virus, which was detected over the weekend in a Canadian hog herd. Farmers aren’t required to report flu outbreaks in their pigs to authorities, and the collection of the 500 samples [assembled nationwide from livestock vets] wasn’t designed to detect a low level of a new virus in U.S. swine, of which there are about 65 million head.”
Hat tip to the fantastic Eddie Gehman Kohan of Obama Foodorama.
Get Grist in your inbox