The swine flu that may have killed as many as 100 people in Mexico and has been confirmed in the U.S. and Canada has led to several countries banning North American pork products. The virus itself has potentially spread around the world, with people in Israel, Spain, Brazil, Britain and New Zealand who recently traveled to Mexico being tested for the flu.

China has banned hog and pork products imports from Mexico and parts of the United States, namely Texas, Kansas and California. The Chinese health ministry has also warned travelers to Mexico and those three states to avoid contact with pigs and see a doctor immediately if they fall ill.

Russia put a ban on pork imports from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Florida, as well as the countries of Central American and the Caribbean. Also, it put a meat import ban on Mexico and some U.S. states, according to Reuters.

"Imports of all types of meat that is not treated thermally are banned from Mexico, Texas, California and Kansas because it can be contaminated by infected people working at local slaughter houses or meat factories," Russia's chief veterinary official Nikolai Vlasov told Reuters.

The Philippines has banned the import of hogs and pork products from Mexico and the United States. According to the Business Mirror, The United States accounted for 27 percent of the pork products imported into the country last year. Serbia also banned all imports of pork from North America. South Korea has stated that it will increase the number of influenza virus checks on pork products from the U.S. and Mexico, according to AP reports.

Sources: AFP, Reuters,, Associated Press

Pork organizations, processors react to swine flu outbreak

In light of the swine flu outbreak and the corresponding banning of American pork products by several countries, pork associations and processors have spoken out about the case.

The National Pork Board released a statement repeating the findings of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.”

The CDC and other health organizations continue to caution that the virus is contagious and is spreading from humans to humans. The CDC has said it has not found any evidence to indicate that any of the illnesses resulted from contact with pigs. The NPB says. Nonetheless, the National Pork Board is encouraging pork producers to maintain strict biosecurity procedures on their farms.

"We share the concern of the global health community regarding the spread of this disease," said Steve Weaver, a California pork producer and president of the National Pork Board. "To ensure the good health of our animals and for all those who provide care for the animals, we are urging pork producers to be vigilant in taking measures to prevent the spread of this disease."

Similarly, the National Pork Producers Council issued a statement stating that U.S. pork products are safe to eat and that U.S. pigs are not the source of the swine flu outbreak, nor have any been infected with the hybrid influenza. “NPPC wants to assure domestic and global consumers about the safety of pork and urges pork producers to tighten their existing biosecurity protocols to protect their pigs from this virus, including restricting public access to barns,” the organization noted.

Smithfield Foods Corp. announced that it had not found any signs or symptoms of the presence of swine influenza in its swine herd or its employees in its joint ventures in Mexico.

Those operations are cooperating with Mexican officials to assist it in its investigation of the possible sources of the outbreak of the disease and will submit samples from its swine herds to The University of Mexico for testing.

“Based on available recent information, Smithfield has no reason to believe that the virus is in any way connected to its operations in Mexico. The company also noted that its joint ventures in Mexico routinely administer influenza virus vaccination to their swine herds and conduct monthly tests for the presence of swine influenza,” the company announced.

According to morning Bloomberg reports, stocks of American pork producers Tyson Foods and Smithfield have dropped 9.1 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Corn for July delivery fell as much as 4.1 percent to $3.70 a bushel in electronic trading on the Chicago Board of Trade. Soybeans for July dropped as much as 5.7 percent to $9.7525 a bushel, Bloomberg noted.

Sources: National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, Smithfield Foods Corp., Bloomberg

Smithfield plant rejects unionization

Workers at Smithfield Packing Co.’s bacon plant in Wilson, N.C., have voted against joining the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The final vote was 338-181 in an election that was supervised by the National Labor Relations Board and confirmed by a union spokesman.

The Wilson plans is located about 50 miles east of Raleigh and employs more than 600 people. Smithfield is still negotiating details of an initial labor contract with workers at the Tar Heel facility, which voted this year to unionize.

Source: Associated Press

Uninspected frozen meat and pasta recalled

Mucci’s Food Products, Inc., a Canton, Mich., establishment, is recalling an undetermined amount of frozen meat and poultry pasta products which are adulterated and misbranded because they were prepared without the benefit of federal inspection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced.

The frozen meat and poultry pasta products were produced from May 1, 2008, through April 24, 2009. The recall involves “Mama Mucci’s Pasta” products, including Italian sausage and broccolini ravioli, Tuscan chicken ravioli, Italian sausage bacci and veal ravioli.

Each product bears the establishment number “19177” or “P-19177” inside the USDA mark of inspection as well as the Julian Dates of “1218” to “1149” located at the bottom of the box.

The frozen meat and poultry pasta products were distributed to restaurants in Southeast Michigan, and to brokers and distributors in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio.

Source: Food Safety and Inspection Service

U.S. chicken production to fall for first time in 36 years

While prices for chicken have rebounded, U.S. chicken production is expected to fall for the first time in 36 years due to a rise in feed costs and a recession-related drop in demand. Prices are not as bad as the $1-per-pound low reached in November, but further gains will depend on demand, Reuters reports.

"We have to wait until the third or fourth quarter before chicken prices show solid gains," said Rich Nelson, director of research at Allendale Inc. "We have seen prices recover a little bit, but it's only due to the drop in production. We have not seen demand return yet, and that's the key thing keeping chicken producers from showing solid profits.”

Poultry production is forecast to drop from 4 to 5 percent, according to the National Chicken Council. Chicken producers have aggressively culled their flocks over the past year, from both the rising feed costs and the drop in demand.

Source: Reuters