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U.S., Canada and Mexican Agriculture Heads Urge Trading Partners to Not Use H1N1 Virus as an Excuse to Create Trade Barriers

Thursday, May 7, 2009

(American Meat Institute)

"We strongly urge the international community not to use the outbreak of the H1N1 human influenza as a reason to create unnecessary trade restrictions and that decisions be made based on sound scientific evidence," said the top three agriculture officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico, in a written statement released to the media.

The statement, signed by Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Mexican Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food Alberto Cardenas, underscored the safety of pork and the fact that "H1N1 human influenza viruses are not spread by food."

The statement notes that International organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) all reiterate that the consumption of pork meat and related products do not present a health risk of contracting H1N1 human influenza and that all three countries are committed to ongoing monitoring and vigilance in both public and animal health.

"The current outbreak of H1N1 human influenza, which is being spread from person to person, is being addressed by the health and sanitary authorities of our three countries, emphasizing the need for cooperation and a common front against this new virus. In addition, we fully support OIE efforts to alert and disseminate relevant information published by its members' laboratories in real time about the disease," the statement added.

Additionally, in a move to clear up any misinformation about the safety of eating pork, a joint statement from the FAO, WHO and OIE was re-issued which addressed the transmission of influenza viruses and the consumption of pork products or other food products derived from pigs. 

"Influenza viruses are not known to be transmissible to people through eating processed pork or other food products derived from pigs," the statement notes.  "Pork and pork products, handled in accordance with good hygienic practices recommended by the WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission and the OIE, will not be a source of infection," the statement added.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack also testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies of the Senate Committee on Appropriations recently about the H1N1 influenza virus and pork. 

During this testimony, Vilsack laid out things that Americans should know about the recent flu outbreak and the consumption of pork products.   Vilsack commented that, "Today I would like to emphasize several points related to the 2009-H1N1 flu outbreak. One--let me be absolutely clear: it is safe to consume pork products. Two--USDA is involved in surveillance and vaccine development for swine. Three--USDA is well prepared should we detect the 2009-H1N1 flu virus in U.S. swine. And finally--USDA is working to keep markets open for pork products."


To see a copy of his testimony in its entirety, click here: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=2009/05/0156.xml

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