Six Week Delay in Reporting Pigs Potentially Sick with H1N1

We’re all accustomed to the USDA dropping the ball where food safety is concerned, but this breaks new ground and may extend beyond incompetence and qualify as a cover-up. The USDA has announced that the swine flu virus going around has likely infected pigs at the Minnesota State Fair—six weeks ago. Tests confirming these initial results won’t be finished until next week.

Six weeks for a preliminary test seems an outrageous and inexcusable delay. In Canada, it takes only one to five days to obtain tests results for people. Since the virus is the same, I can’t imagine that obtaining test results for pigs would be any more time consuming than it is for people.

The outbreak is being widely and ineptly covered by the media but there doesn’t seem to be a single word about why it took six weeks for this story to get out. Surely, the USDA must have suspected right away that the pigs were ill with swine flu.

Has the USDA been sitting on these results for weeks? Or were the results only just obtained—and, if so, why on earth would it take the agency six weeks to complete the tests? Either way, this smells fishy, and a full explanation is called for.

Meanwhile, the fine people at the National Pork Board issued a statement that included the following three points:

  • Regardless of the outcome of the tests, you cannot get the H1N1 flu
    from eating pork. Pork and pork products remain safe to eat and handle.
  • Scientific studies conducted by the USDA have proven that the H1N1 flu is a respiratory virus, not a food-borne illness, and it is not found in the blood or meat of pigs exposed to the virus.
  • The two most important steps you can take to protect you and your
    family from the H1N1 flu are to wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

All true, but irrelevant. Here’s what matters:

  1. The current H1N1 virus came into existence as a direct result of people raising pigs for meat.
  2. Every pig that’s raised, both in the USA and abroad, adds to the risk that one pig, somewhere, will pick up the virus and, while hosting it, enable the current strain to mutate to catastrophic effect.

The National Pork Board is morally bankrupt for not speaking to these two key points.

Link to Pork Board statement (Thanks, Bea.) Link to Associated Press coverage.