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Meat firms calm in face of swine flu

The Polish meat industry is calmly optimistic that swine flu panic will not cut into its profits.
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As the swine flu epidemic spread throughout the world last week, unsubstantiated fears spread along with it. In many countries the idea that the virus can be transmitted by eating pork products had taken root, leading consumers to avoid purchasing or eating pork meat.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, "Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products."

Nevertheless, Egypt ordered a national pig slaughter last week, effectively wiping out the country's 300,000 pigs, ignoring UN assurances that there was no need. And in the US, consumers' fear of the virus sent the prices of pig carcasses downward, sparking serious concern among pig breeders.

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The situation in the Polish industry, which counts 14 million head of swine, is relatively optimistic, however. Chief Veterinary Inspector Janusz Związek assured WBJ that Poland would not imitate the Egyptian "armageddon."

"The very name of the flu is unfortunate [for the meat industry]," Związek said.

The opinion was shared by Witold Choiński, president of the Polish Meat Association, who told TVN CNBC that the virus should have been called the "Mexican flu," since that was where the first cases were first observed.

Asked if the current outbreak of swine flu would have any effect on the state of the Polish meat industry, Roman Miler, vice president of meat producer PKM Duda, said, "The situation will not cause any financial losses to the meat sector in Poland."

He noted, however, that his firm is strengthening its "health and bio-security procedures," so as to prevent the virus from entering its plants.

Roberto Galea

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