Reuters reported yesterday that new information from the World Health Organization suggested pigs sickened with H1N1 swine flu should not be consumed, despite earlier insistence that fully cooked pork is perfectly safe.
The story states,
"The WHO comments appear more cautious than those from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which said import bans are not required to safeguard public health because the disease is not food-borne and has not been identified in dead animal tissue.
The WHO however said it was possible for flu viruses to survive the freezing process and be present in thawed meat, as well as in blood."
Well, who in their right mind drinks raw pig blood thinking it won’t possibly make them sick?
I didn’t find any statements on the WHO website that mentioned the ability of viruses to survive freezing–or its pertinence to the consumption of fully cooked pork–but I discovered that the WHO, FAO, and OIE have reissued their joint statement from April 30 today to address misunderstanding of the consumption of meat from H1N1 infected pigs. The statement reads, in part,
"Authorities and consumers should ensure that meat from sick pigs or pigs found dead are not processed or used for human consumption under any circumstances."
Sick or dead animals should never be slaughtered, regardless of the cause of illness or death. This reduces the risk for cross-contamination. The statement reassures,
"Heat treatments commonly used in cooking meat (e.g. 70°C/160°F core temperature) will readily inactivate any viruses potentially present in raw meat products.
Pork and pork products, handled in accordance with good hygienic practices recommended by the WHO, Codex Alimentarius Commission and the OIE, will not be a source of infection."
But I shouldn’t be spelling this stuff out–the WHO should. And they should address the bit about viruses surviving freezing and how that impacts food handlers.
Authorities should communicate the risks and how they’re being managed (or can be managed) in a way the public can understand and the media can’t mess up. It’s their responsibility to a concerned public.