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NZ Pork Sellers Not Worried by H1N1 Flu

by 5m Editor
14 May 2009, at 10:12am

NEW ZEALAND - Influenza A (H1N1) might have triggered some dramatic responses overseas but New Zealanders have not been led by the nose when it comes to eating pork.

It was reported yesterday that all passengers arriving on a flight that included a Mexican infected with Swine Flu (H1N1) were quarantined for a week by authorities in Shanghai.

Another draconian response to swine flu occurred in Egypt, where fears about eating pork led to the immediate slaughter of over 300,000 pigs.

The National Business Review reported on 1 May that the New Zealand Pork Industry Board (NZ Pork) was referring to H1N1 as “North American influenza” in order to distance its pigs from possible consumer fall-out.

According to John Weekes writing for 3News.co.nz, despite NZ Pork’s apparent concerns about an anti-pork public panic, it seems H1N1 has not changed local eating habits, and any notion that swine flu might decrease pork sales here has been dismissed by butchers as an urban myth.

Michael Cornwall, of Clark’s Organic Butchery in West Auckland, says his customers have not changed their preferences at all.

"Most of our pork comes from Canterbury. If our customers know their brand they can associate with it and that gives them some peace of mind."

"No-one’s asked it about really," said Mr Cornwall.

Wellington butcher John Norris said that some of his customers had been a little concerned about H1N1, but despite this curiosity, he has not noticed any change in pork sales.

Butchers in Grey Lynn and the Auckland CBD who were asked about the issue also noticed no decline in pork sales.

As in Wellington and Auckland, the pork sales situation in the South Island appears unchanged.

"We just sell home-processed pork and that hasn’t stopped," says Joyce Sinclair of Edendale Butchers in Southland.

When asked about the possibility of misinformed customers making negative connections between swine flu and pork, she said, "I never thought about that."

While swine flu has grabbed the global spotlight, some media commentators like CNN’s Doug Gross say people need to focus their health concerns elsewhere.

Mr Gross points to figures released by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention showing more than 13,000 people have died from regular seasonal influenza and complications related to it.

The Merck Veterinary Manual states on its website that only one to four per cent of pigs infected with H1N1 and its variants die from the illness.

Merck also states that the disease is best controlled by “vaccination and strict import controls”.

H1N1 is common in many pigs throughout North and South America but transmission from hogs to humans is rare.

Despite the mass culling that occurred in Egypt, H1N1 cannot be caught by eating pork or pork products.