A total of 10 countries have now banned U.S. pork imports, despite the fact that government officials and food scientists have maintained that pork products are safe to eat during the North American flu outbreak.

USDA secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement reiterating to American consumers that no signs that any American swine have been infected with the virus. “I want to reiterate the same message to our trading partners - our pork and pork products are safe. The discovery of this virus in humans is not a basis for restricting imports of commercially produced U.S. pork and pork products. Any trade restrictions would be inconsistent with World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines. USDA is working closely with the U.S. Trade Representative's office on these issues,” he added.

Russia banned all meat from California, Texas, Kansas, New York and Ohio; China banned pork from Texas, California and Kansas; Philippines, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and Ecuador banned all U.S. pork imports; Korea banned U.S. live swine, but not pork; St. Lucia has also banned U.S. pork, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Agriculture Department said.

"It is not a ... situation where banning pork products or prohibiting your consumers from having access to American pork is going to make one iota worth of difference in terms of protecting consumers," Vilsack said, according to the Guardian.

Some countries have sought to reduce fears about American pork products. The Japanese government and the European Union has stated it will not ban U.S. pork. "We have no plans to ban any meat, pork or food products from the U.S. since there is no connection between food and the flu at present and such a move would be unjust," a European Commission official told Reuters.

"We want to make sure that a handful of our trading partners don't take advantage of this legitimate concern over public health and engage in behavior that could also damage the world's economy," said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

A representative from the North American Pork Producers Council said that he expected the bans to be short-lived and that there will not be “significant disruption” in exports.

Source: The Guardian, USDA, Reuters

Chik-fil-A expands spicy sandwich test

Chik-fil-A, which has been testing a new Spicy Chicken Sandwich concept in two restaurants, one in Florida and one in Maryland, is expanding the test to include all 32 of its California stores. The sandwich differs from the chain’s regular Chicken Sandwich in that the chicken is seasoned with a fiery blend of peppers.

"When asking our customers what more could we do to enhance their overall customer experience when dining at Chick-fil-A, they have consistently requested that we add a spicy chicken sandwich to our menu," said Woody Faulk, Chick-fil-A's vice president of brand development. "In response to their request and through vigorous testing to ensure the highest quality standards, both in taste and ease of operation, we have created a new spicy chicken sandwich. California promises to be an important proving ground for our new spicy offering, based on the diversity of its customer base, as well as the desire among many Californians for spicier foods."

Source: Chik-fil-A Inc.

Tennessee House Agricultural Committee to discuss horse processing

Tennessee state legislators, with cooperation from the state Department of Agriculture, are seeking ways to bring horse processing to the state, reports theKnoxville News Sentinel. The proposal sponsored by Rep. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) calls for the state DoA to generate rules and regulations for licensing and inspection of “equine slaughter and processing facilities.”

The bill is modeled after a Montana law and was drafted in the hopes that a foreign-owned company would consider building a horse-processing facility in Tennessee. The measure declares that anyone who files a lawsuit against a plant must post a bond with the court equal to 20 percent of the cost of the plant, with the lawsuit to be dismissed if the bond isn’t produced. If the plaintiff posts the bond but loses the lawsuit, the bond is forfeited. That part of the proposal is meant to ease fears that "some fringe radical animal-rights group" will try to stop the building of a facility, he said.

Rep. John Litz (D-Morristown) raised the possibility that the horse meat could be sold to zoos, as Tennessee zoos are currently importing horse meat from Canada to feed their carnivores.

Federal law prohibits horse processing in a plant that processes meat for human consumption, said Jimmy Hopper, the director of regulatory services for the state’s DoA. A plant that only processes horse meat for sale to state zoos might be legal, he added, pending more research.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel

Cost cuts help Burger King grow profits in Q3

Burger King posted a 15 percent rise in third-quarter profits, thanks in part to cost cuts and tax savings that offset weakness in March traffic, reports Dow Jones. Total revenue was $600 million, representing a gain of 1 percent, and the company earned $47 million, up from $41 million from a year ago. The company reduced G&A (general and administrative) costs by $11 million or 11 percent to $93 million as compared to the same period last year.

"While we performed well in January and February, the unexpected decline in March traffic across many of the countries in which we operate, particularly the Germany and Mexico markets, adversely affected our results," said John Chidsey, CEO, in the earnings report.

Source: Dow Jones Newswire, Burger King Corp.