Public health authorities stress that you can't catch swine flu from eating pork. But they keep citing cooked pork. What about the raw meat?

Handling raw pork is safe from swine flu too, experts say.

"There's no evidence that any influenza virus, and in particular this one, has ever been transmitted by the foodborne route or by handling food products," said flu expert Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University.

After all, he said, flu infects a pig's respiratory system, and "food products have nothing to do with that."

Dr. Philip Brachman, an Emory University epidemiology expert, agreed. "Nobody has suggested raw pork is a vehicle of infection," he said.

Maybe you could concoct a chain of events that would lead to an infection that way, but it would be about as likely as getting struck by a meteorite, said Jim Dickson of Iowa State University.

"Is it at all likely? No," said Dickson, who directs his institution's federally funded program on food safety, focusing on pork.

So why do public health authorities talk about eating cooked pork?

Probably because of other germs you can pick up from eating the raw meat, like salmonella, suggested Marisa Bunning, an extension food safety specialist at Colorado State University.

"Food safety experts don't want to indicate that eating raw pork is a good idea," she said. "The wording has to be done carefully to not give the wrong impression."

People should wash their hands after handling raw meat because of the non-flu germs it might contain, she said.


On the Net:

Federal fact sheet

World Health Organization information