Thursday, May 07, 2009

Eat Pig & Die? H1N1 Flu Inspires Conflicting Reports On Safety Of Pork, But Secretary Vilsack Still Eats It Every Day

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and interim FDA director Dr. Josh Sharfstein testified about Swine Flu on Capitol Hill today. (Above: Sec V with Sen. Herb Kohl at the hearing)
Sec V said:
One-Let me be absolutely clear: it is safe to consume pork products. Two-USDA is involved in surveillance and vaccine development for swine. Three-USDA is well prepared should we detect the 2009-H1N1 flu virus in U.S. swine. And finally-USDA is working to keep markets open for pork products. mAnother point I want to reiterate is that there is no evidence of the 2009-H1N1 virus in U.S. swine. We continue to take steps to verify that there are no signs of this virus in our swine herd, including working with state animal health officials, private practitioners, and our own federal veterinarians in the field.

But Scott Kilman of Wall Street Journal points out:
The Us has no program in place for testing hog herds. A pilot program is being developed by the CDC, but it hasn't started yet. Veterinary experts say
it's impossible to know whether US pigs are free of the new virus, which was detected over the weekend in a Canadian hog herd. Worse, farmers aren't required to report flu outbreaks in their pigs to authorities.

At the same time that Secretary Vilsack was on Capitol Hill, the World Health Organization issued a report about pork, which said it is dangerous to consume meat from flu-infected pigs. Their bullet points:
*Flu viruses can survive freezing, be present on thawed meat * Blood of H1N1 infected pigs may contain virus, and make people ill * Meat from sick pigs or pigs found dead must not be consumed * Guidelines are needed to protect workers handling pigs, particularly those who slaughter pigs, who can be exposed to blood and other secretions from pigs, which could be contaminated with flu virus
*Authorities and consumers should ensure that meat from sick pigs or pigs found dead are not processed or used for human consumption under any circumstances.

Eating flu-contaminated pork can make you ill, and the US has no protocols in place to ensure that flu-infected pork is not in the foodchain. Now, who does the Average American pork-loving Consumer believe about the safety of pork? Our own Ag Secretary, or the zoonotic disease specialist from WHO? When's Peggy Hamburg going to be confirmed as FDA commish, again?

*Getty pic