Nation's ag chief defends pork products

Nebraska consumers and hog farmers are hearing words of concern and of reassurance about swine flu. U-S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he’s worried unfounded fear over the so-called “swine flu” virus is harming agriculture. Vilsack says his department keeps in constant check with state ag secretaries on the issue.

Vilsack says there is no indication any hogs in the U-S have been infected and he says if that would happen, they would notify people immediately. Vilsack appeared with the U-S Secretary of Homeland Security during a briefing on the swine flu outbreak. He says pork prices have fallen in recent days, as have corn and soybean prices, over unfounded fears surrounding the outbreak.

“We believe that there is not reason to stop or ban pork or pork products from the United States,” Vilsack says. He says it is “perfectly safe” to eat pork products and he says the U-S will continue working to keep the trading lanes open with other countries. Vilsack singled out Japan as a country which has “sent a clear message” that this is not a food borne illness and the importation of American pork is safe.

Vilsack says they will continue to work to answer questions with countries that have taken other actions and let them know that actions to ban imports of pork or beer is not “science based” and could result in serious disruptions of trade.

Vilsack says the disease shouldn’t even be called “swine flu” and says another name should be used that’s more accurate, since this strain actually includes traces of swine, bird and human influenzas.