USDA says our pigs may have Swine Flu but not H1N1, yet.

In one of the more confusing statements from the USDA, its boss – Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack ­ – today apparently tried to appease pig farmers and pork eaters alike.

19pigfarm“Swine influenza has been present in the United States for over 80 years, but the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus now circulating among humans is not the same as ‘swine flu,’” the secretary said.

Swine herds in the U.S. are free of the pandemic H1N1 influenza, he said, and stressed that if the disease were found “you cannot get infected with virus from eating pork or pork products.”

But don’t begin breathing too easily because he says “This fall, it is possible that we will find the H1N1 influenza virus in swine.”

The secretary adds: “When it comes to flu, swine are much like people – the vast majority recovers without any lingering health effects. Only those animals that have fully recovered will go to market.”

USDA has implemented a swine influenza virus surveillance program to search for it and studying these influenza viruses in swine will help create better tools to diagnose and develop new and improved vaccines to protect U.S swine herds.

In closing his remarks today, Vilsack again urged the media to stop calling H1N1 “swine flu” because it is “causing undue and undeserved harm to America’s agriculture industry, especially to pork producers.”

USDA Tom Vilsack

USDA Tom Vilsack

“It is simply not fair or correct to associate (H1N1) influenza with hogs, an animal that does not play a role in the ongoing transmission of the pandemic strain,” the secretary said.

I’ve got the butchers between Vancouver, BC and Portland, Ore., with whom I occasionally chat.  I called four of them today and all said they have seen no drop in pork sales or any undue concern from shoppers.

So where’s the harm?

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