This Week’s Column: The Facts on H1N1

Last week I shared my concerns about the manufactured nature of this “public health crisis.” I’ve been continually frustrated this week by mainstream media outlets continuing to refer to the disease as “swine flu,” particularly given the utter disconnect between the disease and the production of pork.



Certainly farmers share the concerns of the global health community about preventing the spread of this strain of influenza. However, public officials and leaders should balance the importance of the public receiving factual information about this disease with the concerns of inducing unwarranted fear and panic.

Fact: Pork products are safe, and will continue to be safe to consume. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that this virus is not spread by food. Additionally, the World Health Organization has ruled out any risk of people becoming infected by consuming pork. Simply put, it is impossible to contract any strain of influenza by consuming pork that is properly handled and prepared.

Fact: This virus is spread by human-to-human contact. None of the U.S. persons currently diagnosed with this strain have been in contact with pigs, and no U.S. herd is currently infected with this strain. Any report that this influenza has originated on a farm is incorrect. While it is true that an isolated incident of the H1N1 in a hog herd in Alberta, Canada occurred, this incident was clearly traced to direct contact of an infected person with the hogs in question.

Fact: The OIE, an international organization that manages animal diseases globally, recommends that this strain be renamed “North American Influenza” based on its geographic origin and the fact that it contains swine, avian, and human components.

Fact: Producing safe food is priority #1 for all livestock producers. That’s why pork producers use strict biosecurity procedures to protect their herds. These include raising animals in barns that allow animal caretakers to constantly monitor herd health, ensure the comfort of the animals, keep the animals clean and protect the animals from predators, disease and extreme weather. This also limits contact with outside visitors, providing another level of protection for their herds.

Some well-funded animal rights activists are taking advantage of this situation by trying to tie the spread of this disease to modern family farms. It is disgraceful that they are taking this opportunity to advance their narrow agenda against the consumption of meat. Because of the high priority pork producers place on biosecurity, the US hog herd and food supply remain insulated from H1N1.



To put this in further perspective, think back to the Avian Influenza outbreak of a few years back. Press reports and made-for-TV movies proclaimed we were all on the verge of a pandemic the likes of which we’d never before seen. Interestingly enough, the disease remained tied to open-housing systems in Asian poultry, centering around so-called backyard flocks and open-air bird markets. The modern biosecurity measures of today’s US poultry producer saved our birds and neighbors from this disease scare. The same concept holds true with the current H1N1 situation.



Again, the facts are:

– Pork products remain safe for consumption.

– This strain is being spread by human-to-human contact, not by the consumption of pork. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that this virus is not spread by food. Additionally, the World Health Organization has ruled out any risk of people being infected by consuming pork.

– No U.S. herd has been diagnosed with this strain of influenza at this point.



Arming yourself with the facts is the first and most important step. The next most critical thing you can do is to educate your family and neighbors about the issue. Finally, I encourage you to eat pork! The best way to support the farmers who feed our needs is to consume – and enjoy! – the products they work so hard to provide our nation.



As I always say, if you had a good meal today, thank a farmer.