Canada processors may avoid pigs recovered from flu

Fri May 8, 2009 4:28pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - Pork processors may be reluctant to buy pigs that have recovered from the H1N1 flu, requiring the government to compensate the farmer who owns the first herd confirmed to be infected with the virus, a Canadian food safety official said on Friday.

That "troubling" scenario could undermine the emphasis from the World Health Organization as well as Canadian food safety officials that pork is safe to eat, Dr. Jim Clark, manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's disease control unit, said in an interview with Reuters.

"From the CFIA's perspective, there's no reason the food processors shouldn't be able to (process the pigs).

"(Reluctance) is based on perception, and I understand the reaction in terms of they're concerned about the impact on their business. But at the same time it would be messaging in the opposite direction to what everyone is saying to this point (about pork safety)."

The CFIA announced last Saturday it had quarantined a 2,200-hog farm in the western province of Alberta. The animals apparently caught the H1N1 virus, also referred to as swine flu, from a worker on the farm who had been to Mexico.

Health officials in Canada and with the WHO have stressed that, given normal sanitary and health precautions, the virus can not be spread by eating pork.

But the recovered pigs will not be worth processing if doing so harms Canada's international reputation, said Florian Possberg, a director of the industry's export promotion agency, Canada Pork International.

Processors who export are rightfully wary of buying pigs recovered from a flu outbreak that may or may not become a pandemic, he said.   Continued...