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NPPC Calls For Accurate Reporting On Influenza

by 5m Editor
5 May 2009, at 11:01am

US - Noting that the US pork industry is nearing the brink of financial disaster, the National Pork Producers Council on 1 May called for accurate reporting on the recent influenza outbreak.

NPPC urged US pork producers and others involved in the pork industry to address influenza outbreak misinformation, which already has exacerbated an economic crisis in the pork industry.

Much of the media has referred to the current influenza as “swine“ flu despite the fact that the flu virus is not of pig origin, is not in the US pig herd and never has been found in pigs anywhere in the world. Additionally, the World Health Organization, World Organization for Animal Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security have said this is not “swine“ flu. They are calling it Influenza A or H1N1 flu.

“We strongly urge the media to accurately report about the H1N1 flu virus and the safety of pork consumption,“ said NPPC CEO Neil Dierks. “Inaccurate media reports are negatively affecting US pork producers and the reputation of U.S. pork as a quality and safe product. That’s hurting producers economically and threatening U.S. pork export markets.

“Everyone should be focusing resources on finding a solution to this public health threat, not making unscientific claims,“ said Mr Dierks.

“Speculative theories about the H1N1 virus spreading from pigs to humans are irresponsible and only contribute to unnecessary worry among US citizens,“ added Dr. Jen Greiner, NPPC director of Science and Technology. “According to the CDC, this virus is very different from that found in pigs, and influenza viruses are not transmitted by food; you cannot get influenza from eating pork or pork products.“

In a letter to the major broadcast media outlets and wire services, NPPC requested that the H1N1 influenza not be called “swine“ flu. At least one outlet agreed not to use the term.

“We’re pleased with the editorial decision of the Gannett Company [a leading US newspaper publisher and broadcaster] to no longer use the term ‘swine flu’ in any of its published or broadcast references to the H1N1 virus,“ said Dallas Hockman, NPPC vice president of Industry Relations. “We thank Gannett for this decision and hope other US and global media outlets see fit to do the same.“

The incorrect reporting of the H1N1 flu, or Influenza A, as “swine“ flu has compounded the economic squeeze the US pork industry has experienced the past 19 months, when producers lost an average of $20 per hog. Since the flu outbreak became a major news story, producers have lost another $6 per pig, with average hog prices falling from $124 a head on 24 April to $118 on 28 April. That decline cost the industry nearly $2.5 million a day.

NPPC is urging all segments of the US pork industry to help disseminate the facts about pork being safe to eat and to counter misinformation being reported by the media or peddled by activist groups.

“While education and prevention hopefully can minimize the dreadful impacts of the global flu outbreak,“ said Mr Hockman, “Only by working together can the pork industry and consumer and health groups work to minimize the H1N1 virus’s impact on the pork industry. It’s critical for the pork industry that all concerned organizations be dedicated and diligent about communicating the true facts about pork and the H1N1 flu.“