Officials deny "swine flu" is linked to pig farms
Published:  30 April, 2009

The international pig industry and world officials have rejected claims that the H1N1 flu outbreak, which is causing worldwide panic, originated on intensive pig farms.

Several commentators have linked pig processor Smithfield Foods to the recent outbreak of H1N1, after it was revealed that its subsiduary Granjas Carroll owns a pig farm just five miles from a village which experienced some of the first cases of the virus.

Smithfield has denied the allegations, insisting that there is “no reason to believe that the virus is in any way connected to its operations in Mexico.” A later statement pointed out that “no clinical signs or symptoms of the presence of North American influenza” have been found in the company’s swine herd or its employees.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has advised that although the virus has been widely referred to as “swine influenza”, the strain has never been found in pigs and contains genetic components of not just swine, but also human and avian flu.

OID director-general, Bernard Vallat, said: “No current information in influenza like animal disease in Mexico or the USA could support a link between human cases and possible animal cases including swine. The virus has not been isolated in animals to date. Therefore, it is not justified to name this disease swine influenza.”

Speaking at the Newspaper Society at the Palace of Westminster, UK secretary of state Hilary Benn also stressed that there have been no reports of unusual disease in pig herds.

“Results of our surveillance suggest that this variant of H1N1 does not appear to be present in pigs in the UK or anywhere else in the EU,” he said.

“As the World Health Organisation has made clear, this situation does not pose a food safety risk to consumers. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is perfectly safe.”