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Following multiple reports that global trading partners have implemented bans and restrictions on pork imports in the face of so-called “swine flu” cases in the United States and Mexico, the American Meat Institute has released a number of materials designed to set the record straight on the matter, including a video message about pork safety from AMI president J. Patrick Boyle.
The trade group also posted a statement, a series of consumer questions and answers, and audio sound bites on its consumer Web site.
AMI’s comments echo those from public health officials such as Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general interim for Health Security and Environment at the World Health Organization, who said there is “no evidence to suggest that people are getting exposed or getting infected from exposure to pork or to pigs. Right now, we have zero evidence to suspect that exposure to meat leads to infections.”
AMI also welcomed a statement from the World Animal Health Organization (OIE), which said the virus has not been isolated in animals to date. “Therefore, it is not justified to name this disease ‘swine influenza,’" said the Paris-based organization, which instead suggested that “North American Flu” was a more accurate description.
“Although news of influenza infections in people in Mexico, the U.S. and a handful of other countries is unsettling, the fact remains: U.S. pork is safe,” said AMI’s Boyle, who added that consuming pork has not been associated with human illnesses caused by this virus.
“Public health officials around the globe -- from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the World Health Organization -- are stressing this fact. At this point, the influenza risk is a human health issue. Although this particular virus could affect swine, it has not been reported in pigs.” Boyle further blasted media reports showing images of pigs that “are creating a false impression that is generating needless alarm and concern regarding the safety of pork.
“We are urging U.S. officials to work aggressively with a handful of nations that have ceased imports of U.S. pork to convey the science to secure a full restoration of trade. These trade suspension actions are based on unfounded fear, not on scientific facts,” continued Boyle, who affirmed that “consumers can continue to enjoy vitamin-rich pork as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Consumers should continue to use normal safe-handling practices when preparing fresh pork, like cooking thoroughly, keeping raw foods separate from cooked foods and washing hands, cutting boards and other surfaces and utensils that contact raw pork, with hot soapy water.”