SMITHFIELD, VA. — C. Larry Pope, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods Inc., sent a letter to all Smithfield employees addressing the H1N1 influenza outbreak. He iterated the company has found no evidence of the presence of the influenza virus in any of Smithfield’s pig herds or company employees at any of its worldwide operations, including those in the U.S.
Much about the outbreak still remains a mystery, Mr. Pope stressed. "As of this writing, there are still a number of facts about H1N1 that remain a mystery, including where the strain originated, how it is spreading, how far it will spread and when it will run its course," he said.
Facts regarding what Smithfield has done, is doing and will continue to do about keeping its workers and pigs healthy were conveyed. Smithfield announced on April 29 it has administered additional tests of pigs at a joint operation run with another company in Veracruz, Mexico and results of these independent laboratory tests should be available in several days. Results will be announced.
"As you probably also have learned, Mexican health authorities, working with U.S. and health officials from other countries, have also inspected our farms in Veracruz and found no evidence of H1N1 flu at all," his letter stated.
Smithfield’s first priority is to ensure the health and safety of its herds and employees so consumers can trust company products, his letter continued.
"Today, more than ever, and despite the fear generated by those who are not well-informed, I can assure you that consuming pork products is safe, and that Smithfield's brands, in particular, still stand for the highest quality," Mr. Pope wrote. He then provided employees with a list of facts from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the H1N1 influenza virus, including it is not transmitted by food; one cannot get the disease from eating pork or pork products.
Although the virus is contagious from humans to humans, C.D.C. has not found any evidence to indicate any of the illnesses announced resulted from contact with pigs, he said. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack confirmed there is no current evidence at this time showing swine have been infected with H1N1 influenza.
Smithfield’s herds at all operations, including at its joint ventures in Mexico, are tested regularly for instances of various bacteria and disease, including influenza. Flu vaccines are routinely given to the company’s herds to protect them from potential viruses. Monthly tests are conducted to examine the presence and identity of different flu strains.
Smithfield continues to cooperate fully with health officials and aiding in their investigation into the source of the H1N1 outbreak. The company has voluntarily allowed exhaustive testing of its hogs to ensure the virus has not infected its farms, Mr. Pope said.