“Pork is safe to eat and handle,” the U.S. pork industry continues to assure people in the wake of a report from Canada that pigs in an Alberta pork operation contracted an H1N1 virus. A worker who recently visited Mexico – and became ill with the flu – is suspected of transmitting the virus to a pig.
Canadian Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz made the announcement yesterday, May 2, adding that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working closely with the industry to monitor the Canadian swine herd. Ritz also stated that he would continue to work with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as Canada deals with this issue.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement that the detection of H1N1 flu virus in one farm in Canada does not change the situation here in the United States. Vilsack’s statement lists the following points:
• There have been no reports that the novel H1N1 strain currently causing illness in humans is in U.S. swine.
• This is not a foodborne illness. The American food supply is safe and pork and pork products are safe. As is the case with all meat and poultry, safe handling and cooking practices should be used to kill any germs or bacteria that could make you sick.
• As a precaution, people with flu-like symptoms should not interact with swine, and swine showing influenza symptoms should be kept away from the public and brought to the attention of the State Animal Health Authorities or USDA. Proper biosecurity measures – as in any influenza situation – will protect against the spread of virus.
The pigs in the Alberta farm, as well as the individuals testing positive for H1N1 virus are recovering fully and are said to appear healthy.
Influenza is not a foodborne illness
“People cannot get the flu from eating or handling pork,” said Dr. Liz Wagstrom, assistant vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board. “The flu is a respiratory illness, it’s not a foodborne illness.”
According to the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security the H1N1 flu strain that has been contracted by 763 people worldwide cannot be transmitted by eating pork; it is not a food safety issue.
On May 2, 2009, the World Trade Organization, the OIE and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization issued a joint statement saying pork is safe.
“Influenza is not uncommon in pigs,” Wagstrom said, “but they recover, and it does not affect the safety or quality of pork.
“It is well known that influenzas are transmissible, and it is not a surprise that a flu virus might have passed from people to pigs. The bottom line is pork is safe to eat and handle.”
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