Novel Flu Strain Not from Mexican Hog Farm

US - Mexico’s agriculture department today said the influenza strain that now has infected almost 4,300 people in 33 countries did not originate from hogs at a Smithfield Foods operation that had been singled out by some, including critics of modern pork production, as the source of the A-H1N1 flu virus.
calendar icon 15 May 2009
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Test results released yesterday by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Ranching, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) confirmed that the novel A-H1N1 virus was not in pigs at the Granjas Carroll de México farm in Veracruz. The pigs also tested negative for other viruses. While the news was welcomed by the National Pork Producers Council, the organization said the damage to the US pork industry from mislabeling the strain "swine" flu has been done.

"Before the flu outbreak," said NPPC CEO Neil Dierks, "pork producers were losing money, but things were looking up because we were heading into the grilling season. When this flu was misnamed, things went south, and producers’ losses nearly doubled."

The first day the flu outbreak received wide media coverage – 24 April – pork producers were losing $10.91 per pig. After two weeks of reporting on the "swine" flu, pork prices fell dramatically, with producers losing an average of $20.60 per pig, or nearly $8.4 million a day.

Pork prices dropped because of a dip in domestic demand as well as import bans on US pork imposed by a number of US trading partners, including Russia and China. Russia’s ban now applies only to 11 states, most of which are not major pork producers, and at least a dozen countries that banned, or indicated they would ban, US pork now have reversed themselves.

After initial reports of the flu outbreak, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said: "This [flu] virus is different, very different from that found in pigs." On 26 April, the World Organization for Animal Health said the H1N1 influenza never should have been named “swine“ flu and that there was no justification for the imposition of trade restrictions, a position also taken by the World Trade Organization.

NPPC and US and world public-health and agriculture agencies repeatedly have pointed out that pork is safe to eat and handle and that flu viruses are not transmitted through food.

"Speculation on the A-H1N1 flu’s connections to the Mexican farm specifically and to hog farms generally would be irresponsible and would only bring further injury and pain to pork producers for something that was not of their making," Mr Dierks said.

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