May 6, 2009

U.S. pork industry hurt by swine flu label

The head of Smithfield Foods says the swine flu outbreak has cut into sales of pork in the United States.

Smithfield Chief Executive Officer C. Larry Pope told The (Newport News, Va.) Daily Press his company has been cutting back on the hours of packing plant workers as consumers avoid pork, even though the flu virus isn't passed through meat.

They just see the name 'swine,' and virtually every television media has shown pictures of pigs, Pope said. People just don't know. They're unsure.

Pope said Smithfield, the leading pork packer in the country, has been testing its products for swine flu even though the chances of the virus showing up are virtually nil.

We want to assure the public that we have the highest standards and we're going to do the testing even when no one requires it, he told The Daily Press.

Swine flu is officially the H1N1 virus, but Pope is out on the road doing media interviews across the United States to clear up any misconceptions about the safety of pork.