The industry-funded National Pork Board said it "wishes to reassure the public that pork is safe and will continue to be safe to consume." The statement comes as multiple nations increase their screening of pigs and pork imports from the Americas or are banning them outright as the virus is said to have killed up to 86 people and likely sickened up to 1,400 since April 13 in Mexico. U.S. officials say the virus has been found in New York, California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio, but so far no fatalities have been reported.
The stakes are high for U.S. pork producers, which export nearly $5 billion worth of products each year. The organization pointed to a statement by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that swine influenza viruses "are not spread by food" and that eating properly handled pork and cooked pork products is safe since the virus dies when cooked at temperatures of 160 degrees or higher.
The pork producers' group also noted that public health officials believe the virus is spreading from person to person, with no evidence indicating any of the illnesses resulted from close contact with pigs.
However, Russia has banned the import of meat products from Mexico, California, Texas and Kansas. South Korea has said it will increase the number of its influenza virus checks on pork products from Mexico and the U.S.