Please don’t blame the hogs

Swine flu by any other name is still a human disease and not a meat or a food safety issue, say people working in and with Alberta’s pork industry.

Swine flu by any other name is still a human disease and not a meat or a food safety issue, say people working in and with Alberta’s pork industry.

“Mad Butcher” Ron Burndred, owner of Innisfail Meats, said on Thursday that the panic over swine flu has not touched his store.

Local consumers respect the science and they are confident in the measures being take to make sure their food is safe to eat, said Burndred.

“I think our customers and the people in this area know from the science that this is not affecting pork products,” he said.

“They’ve put a nickname to it, and probably wrongfully so.

“But I do know it has not affected our pork sales.

“This is not even an issue, I think, here in Canada.”

Burndred found it astounding that Egypt chose to cull its entire swine herd.

“I think that’s over-reactive, although being cautious is still good.”

Similarly, Calgary chef Roy Kruse, chair of Pork Marketing Canada and consumer services director for Alberta Pork, said Canadian consumers have so far shown no hesitation about putting pork on their fork.

“It has not affected meats sales at all,” said Kruse, who has spoken with a number of retailers.

By Thursday afternoon, Pork Marketing Canada had not received one negative contact from consumers worried about catching the flu from eating or handling pork, he said.

Regardless, the industry is doing everything it can to make sure Canadian consumers don’t become confused by the messages in the media.

Jodi Bakke, policy and communications director for Alberta Pork, said producers are heightening already stringent protocols for biosecurity at their farms.

Bakke said she knows of no other farming operations that have more strict biosecurity than the swine producers. All the same, it’s important to assure people that the protocols are in place and that they work, she said.

It’s unfortunate that the disease was named swine flu at the outset, said Kruse. He would prefer people call it by some other title, such as H1N1, the name now recommended by the World Health Organization.

“It was improperly named to begin with. The main thing is, you cannot get this flu . . . through pork products,” he said.

The World Health Organization says there is no clear indication that the current human cases with swine influenza infection are related to recent or ongoing influenza-like disease events in pigs.

WHO says swine influenza has not been shown to be transmissible to people through eating properly handled and prepared pork or other products derived from pigs. The swine influenza virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F/70°C corresponding to the general guidance for the preparation of pork and other meat.

Pork Marketing Canada has published information concerning the H1N1 virus on its website, www.putporkonyourfork.com

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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