Published April 28, 2009
American agriculture officials want to change the name for the virus that's broken out in Mexico and the U.S. from "swine flu" to something else.
The problem, they say, is that the name "swine flu" suggests a problem with pork products.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack points out that the virus is not food-borne and has nothing to do with consuming pork products. He said he wants Americans and citizens of other countries to know that no American pigs have tested positive for swine flu and that it is "perfectly" safe to eat pork from the U.S.
Speaking Tuesday at a daily news briefing on the government's response to the outbreak, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano repeatedly referred to the strain of influenza as H1N1, the technical name for the virus, rather than swine flu, as health officials have previously called it.
Vilsack, speaking at the same news briefing, said he's concerned that misunderstandings could have a negative impact on farmers who provide pork products to consumers around the world. He said the American hog industry is sound and that consumers everywhere should know that U.S. pork products are safe.
Vilsack said if U.S. trade partners begin to shun American pork it could do further harm to a country already struggling with a recession.
He said the USDA is working with farm families to make sure they continue to raise healthy pork that they can sell here and around the world.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.