April 30, 2009

Canada assures pork safe amid swine flu cases

Canada's pork is safe despite the outbreak of swine influenza in humans, Trade Minister Stockwell Day and Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Gerry Ritz said Wednesday (April 29) in a joint statement.

Canada has 19 confirmed human cases of swine flu, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.

"We want to reassure Canadians that human swine influenza cannot be contracted through eating pork or pork products," Day said in the statement. Officials from the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health and other groups have repeatedly stated properly cooked pork is safe to eat. To date, the virus, also known as H1N1, has not been found in pigs.

Both ministers noted that surveillance for swine influenza in pigs in Canada occurs on an ongoing basis across the country.

They added that, as an added precaution, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the provincial and territorial authorities were working with producers and veterinarians to ensure the highest levels of biosecurity and to enhance monitoring activities.

"We know this is a difficult situation for Canadian pork producers, but they can be confident that the government will stand with them and give them the support they need," the ministers said in the statement.

Some countries have imposed a ban on North American pork and swine products, without scientifically justifiable evidence to support the actions, the ministers said.

"We urge these countries to base their decisions on sound science," they added. "In countries where an import ban is being considered or has been imposed, we are talking to the key agencies and officials to help them make an informed decision and recognize that Canadian pork is safe."

Both ministers vowed to continue monitoring the situation very closely.

In calendar year 2008, total Canadian pork exports were valued at C$2.7 billion, including nearly C$527 million worth of Canadian live swine exports.

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