The unfortunately named “swine flu” virus has dominated headlines across the country. But it was only recently that U.S. governments and agencies renamed the virus H1N1-influenza virus amid concerns that the use of the name “swine” was hurting pork sales. Bill Hall, the acting assistant secretary of public affairs for the Department of Health & Human Services, explained: “[t]here is no evidence at this time that swine in the United States are infected with this virus strain and therefore, this is not an animal health or food safety issue." In fact, Hall further explained that H1N1 was likely a combination of swine, bird, and human strains that had genetically mutated. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the H1N1 virus is transmitted by swine. Nevertheless, the media attention and in-apt name of the flu when it first emerged on the global scene has led many to avoid pork products.
Worldwide, there have been less than 1,000 confirmed cases of the virus, with only 286 being in the United States according to the World Health Organization. So far, there have been no reported or confirmed cases in Iowa or in its neighboring or nearby states.
According to the CDC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:
- People cannot get the hybrid influenza from eating pork or pork products. Most influenza viruses, including the swine flu virus, are not spread by food. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
- There are no food safety issues related to the hybrid flu that has been identified, according to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.
- Preliminary investigations have determined that none of the people infected with the hybrid flu had contact with hogs.
- “This virus is different, very different from that found in pigs.”
- The hybrid virus never has been identified in hogs in the United States or anywhere in the world.
The Iowa Grocery Industry Association has recently reported these facts. Additionally, the Iowa Pork Producers Association and National Pork Board have made efforts to reassure consumers that pork is, in fact, safe for consumption and that the H1N1 virus doesn’t originate from eating pork products.