Incorrect ‘swine flu’ frenzy threatens pig sector
Global pig and pig meat sectors around the world may continue to be adversely affected by the misnamed 'swine flu' outbreak
19 May 2009
The ‘swine flu’ outbreak, which originated in Mexico, is forecast to negatively impact the global economy, undermining the pig meat sector in particular due to a media-backed misnomer.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has clarified that the virus A/H1N1, incorrectly described as ‘swine flu,’ is a “human health event” and that there is no evidence that “the influenza outbreak currently occurring…was preceded by an outbreak of swine influenza.”
Despite statements from the OIE, World Trade Organisation (WTO), and various other food safety and health authorities, several governments have now imposed restrictions and outright bans on pig meat products exported by affected countries. Furthermore, following the outbreak of human-to-human A/H1N1, shares of the world’s largest pork processor Smithfield Foods fell 12%, with similar losses made by other processors.
While Ireland has yet to confirm a single case of the new influenza strain, statements have been released on behalf of Irish pig meat producers, processors, and products.
On 27 April Safefood issued a statement to “reassure consumers that pork and pork products on the island of Ireland are safe to eat.” The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) meanwhile published a notice on its website affirming that “influenza viruses are not transmitted from eating cooked pork or cooked pork products to humans."
Cormac Healy, director Meat Industry Ireland, said it is “regrettable” that the misnomer ‘swine flu’ has been applied and widely disseminated, creating “linkages that are not justified.” He added that it is very difficult to keep “away from any of these issues seriously undermining the sector,” and that there are always those who will exploit the situation to impose “trade restrictions that aren’t justified.”
Reuters reports that World Bank President Robert Zoellick said nine out of the G20 nations have taken or are considering measures to restrict trade during the current economic downturn, and fears now abound the ‘swine flu’ outbreak will be used to “add a further protectionist blow to sagging world trade.”