May 1, 2009


South Korea won't ban pork without concrete proof of virus coming from pigs


South Korea will not bar pork imports unless without convincing scientific evidence that the recent flu outbreak came from pigs, the nation's chief agricultural policymaker said yesterday.

Chang Tae-pyong, minister for food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries said the pork import ban is not the answer to overcome the epidemic. He said they still need evidence that the virus came from pigs before they take any action.

The minister said countries such as Canada, Japan and Europe have not imposed a ban, and stressed that Korea should not overreact.

Chang said there is strong scientific evidence that the virus in pigs cannot be transmitted to humans, and should meat from sick pigs enter the food chain, experts say the virus completely dies under cooking temperatures of 71 degrees Celsius.

The minister also questioned the rationale of China's temporary ban on pork imports.

To ease public fears, however, the government on Tuesday (April 28) announced that it bam imports of live pigs from North America the following day as a precaution against the quickly spreading variant strain of the H1N1 virus.

Chang assured that the nation's quarantine measures for butchered foreign pork have been tightened to allay public fears. He said stronger measures would be taken depending on how the epidemic develops.

Chang called for the easing of public fears and preventing panic through accurate and objective reporting. Overreacting and exaggerated coverage only raises the risk of causing social chaos and creating economic losses.

Noting that the exact cause of the so-called swine influenza still needs to be confirmed, Chang suggested the epidemic should be officially referred to as "Mexican influenza" because so far all reported deaths, suspected to be 159 as of yesterday afternoon, have occurred in Mexico.

The Mexican government reported a similar type of illness on March 13.

The variant strain of the H1N1 virus, which contains DNA from avian, swine and human viruses, is spreading from person to person. It is transmissible by sneezing, coughing, or through human touch. The virus has spread to the United States, Europe, Israel, Canada, New Zealand and Thailand.


Chang said the world should be rational as not one pig has died from the virus and neither has it been transmitted to a human being or another pig.


The minister raised growing concerns about further hurting the pork industry, amid an already declining pork-consumption trend.


Sales trend reports of the state-run Nonghyup supermarket chain showed that the number of domestic pork sales as of yesterday had fallen by 259 to 4,271 since last Monday.


The volume of pork imports between January and March stood at 53.7 tonnes, a 16.9 percent drop from the total of 64.6 tonnes shipped in during the same period in 2008.


Since the outbreak began, the price of a kilogram of bone-in pork has fallen to 4,663 won, down 260 won from late last week.

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