Shares in US pork companies rallied today (28 April) as leading industry figures moved to quell fears that swine flu would result in falling consumption.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), swine flu is spreading from human-to-human. The health watchdog has found no evidence that the illness is a consequence of contact with pigs or the consumption of pork products.
“Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe,” CDC said.
However, concerns over the impact of the disease on pork consumption caused pork stocks to plummet yesterday – with Smithfield Foods down 12% to close at US$9.04, while Tyson Food dropped 9% to close at $9.29.
The industry has moved swiftly to quell these fears and distance itself from the swine flu outbreak.
In a statement released today, Smithfield reiterated that its herds in Mexico and the US have remained untouched by the disease.
The company also emphasised the preventative measures it has taken to keep its pigs free from infection.
“As authorities in Mexico and elsewhere seek to find the cause of the North American influenza outbreak, Smithfield continues to strictly follow rigorous biosecurity practices at its operations, including limiting farm access to essential personnel, preventing farm access to personnel who have recently returned from international travel, and following personal hygiene practices and procedures, such as frequent hand washing and the use of farm-specific clothing and footwear,” Smithfield said.
When contacted by just-food, the company declined to comment beyond its statement.
In a similar vein, Tyson commented: “Our pork products are safe… we are taking measures to tighten our existing biosecurity protocols to protect our hogs from this virus.”
However, the company refused to be drawn on whether the message that pork is safe is getting through.
Shares in Smithfield, the largest pork producer in the US, had gained 4.42% climbing to $9.44 at 9pm (GMT). Meanwhile Tyson had gained 1.41%, rising to $10.10.