US meat group Smithfield Foods has said that no A(H1/N1) influenza, or swine flu, was detected on its hog farms in Mexico.

In a letter to employees yesterday (14 May), CEO and president Larry Pope said that the Mexican government had confirmed that “no virus, including the human strain of A(H1N1) influenza, is present in the pig herd” at its Granjas Carroll de Mexico (GCM) joint venture farm in Veracruz.

“These findings, which are consistent with our earlier communications to you, validate what we believed from the very beginning: that the recent subtype of H1N1 influenza virus affecting humans did not originate from GCM,” the company said.

Smithfield said that regulatory and scientific bodies have continued to confirm that you cannot get A(H1N1) influenza from eating pork or pork products, and none of the people affected had contact with pigs prior to getting sick.

“Our products remain completely safe to eat and handle,” Pope said. “Smithfield takes extraordinary measures to maintain rigorous biosecurity procedures at all of our operations worldwide.”

When news of the A(H1/N1) outbreak first emerged late last month, shares in Smithfield tumbled amid fears in the market over the impact on the meat processing sector.

The group strenuously denied any responsibility and Pope hit 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 the outbreak.

Yesterday, Pope said: “I realise that this has been an unsettling time for all of us in the pork industry and that some consumers have cut back on pork consumption.

“However, as the US Secretary of Agriculture and many others stressed that pork is safe to eat, I am happy to report that we have seen an improvement in pork sales in our US business. We expect this trend to continue.”