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Pioneer Editorial: Officials say pork is still safe to eat

This week's potential pandemic outbreak of swine flu has all of us thinking about measures to avoid getting sick, chief among them canceling for now trips to Mexico where the illness has been deadly for nearly 200 people and caused thousands of people to become ill.

There are a number of preparations one can take to avoid the potential of catching swine flu but one of them isn't to stop eating pork products.

Swine flu is an airborne disease, not food borne, the experts say. America's pork products -- from ham steak to pork chops to bacon -- are safe and consumers will not contract any form of swine flu from eating them.

"People should not be afraid to buy pork, and to feed their family," says Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union president. "The Centers for Disease Control says that the H1N1 virus cannot be contracted by eating pork, and that pork is safe. There are plenty of other precautions you can take to not get the virus, but staying away from eating pork is not one of them."

The biggest prevention method is to wash your hands at all times and covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and stay at home if you are ill.

"It's natural to see some confusion and even misdirected concerns when a new health issue emerges this quickly. However, what I find more troubling are the attempts by a few groups to turn this legitimate human health concern into a tool for advancing an agenda opposing pork production," says Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Gene Hugoson. "The message from government authorities at this point is clear: pork is safe to eat."

Says Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation: "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made it clear that you can not get swine influenza from eating pork or products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe. ... The public can be assured that the U.S. hog herd is healthy and that the American pork supply is safe."

Farmers are taking umbrage with the term, "swine flu," as the new virus is actually a hybrid of swine, avian and human flu. Technically it's known as N1H1, but the World Organization for Animal Health says it should more properly be known as North American influenza, where it first broke out.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., is trying to quell concerns from abroad, earlier this week urging U.S. trade partners to continue to buy pork products. "I want to stress to our trading partners and to the public that humans cannot catch H1N1 flu from eating pork," said Klobuchar. "Saying otherwise is not just misguided, it's plain wrong. This scare has created a crisis in an industry that is vital to Minnesota's economy and I urge the world community to continue importing American pork."

Simply, don't stop eating pork products on account of swine flu.