Smithfield Foods CEO Larry Pope has spoken out against “the media and bloggers” who he accused of jumping to false conclusions “based on fear rather than fact” and sensationalising the issues surrounding swine flu (H1N1).

In an open letter to to the US-based meat firm’s employees, Pope emphasised that the H1N1 virus has still not been detected in any of its swine herds and no Smithfield employees have contracted the disease.

Moreover, Pope said, there is no evidence at this time to show that any pigs have contracted the disease.

“As we have always said, our first priority as a company is to ensure the health and safety of our herds and our employees so that consumers can trust our products.

“Today, more than ever, and despite the fear generated by those who are not well-informed, I can assure you that consuming pork products is safe, and that Smithfield’s brands, in particular, still stand for the highest quality,” Pope wrote.

Pope said that, while the public would “continue to be bombarded by unfounded opinions, non-scientific statements and unrestrained internet media, rumor and speculation”, it was important to remember that the H1N1 virus is not transmitted by food and that there is no evidence to suggest that it is spread by contact with pigs.