Mexico’s agriculture department today said the influenza strain that now has infected almost 4,300 people in 33 countries did not originate from hogs at a Smithfield Foods operation.
Some had singled out this operation as the source of the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus.
Test results released on Thursday by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Ranching, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa) confirmed that the new virus was not in pigs at the Granjas Carroll de México farm in Veracruz. The pigs also tested negative for other viruses.
While the news was welcomed by the US National Pork Producers Council, the organisation said the damage to the US pork industry from mislabelling the strain ‘swine’ flu has been done.
“Before the flu outbreak,” said NPPC CEO Neil Dierks, “pork producers were losing money, but things were looking up because we were heading into the grilling season. When this flu was misnamed, things went south, and producers’ losses nearly doubled.”
The first day the flu outbreak received wide media coverage – April 24 – pork producers were losing $10.91 per pig. After two weeks of reporting on the ‘swine’ flu, pork prices fell dramatically, with producers losing an average of $20.60 per pig, or nearly $8.4 million a day.
Pork prices dropped because of a dip in domestic demand as well as import bans on U.S. pork imposed by a number of US trading partners, including Russia and China. Russia’s ban now applies only to 11 states, most of which are not major pork producers, and at least a dozen countries that banned, or indicated they would ban, US pork now have reversed themselves.
“Speculation on the A-H1N1 flu’s connections to the Mexican farm specifically and to hog farms generally would be irresponsible and would only bring further injury and pain to pork producers for something that was not of their making,” Dierks said.