Pork Checkoff prepared for H1N1

by Bryan Salvage
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DES MOINES, IOWA — Although there is no H1N1 in the U.S. swine herd at this point, the Pork Checkoff is prepared to deal with H1N1 should it emerge through its crisis management plans.

"As we head into fall, we’re working diligently to ensure that if H1N1 does get into the swine herd, it doesn’t impact consumers’ consumption of pork," said Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice-president of communications for the Pork Checkoff.

To prepare for the possibility of H1N1 in the U.S. swine herd, the Pork Checkoff is maintaining its proactive stance by:

• Making sure retailers and consumers continue to understand pork is safe. Research proves that even if a pig does contract H1N1, the disease does not carry over into the meat, Ms. Cunningham said.

• Working with the U.S.D.A., Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Centers for Disease Control so producers understand what to do on their operations if an H1N1 outbreak occurs. "Enhanced biosecurity protocols are so critical right now to keep our herds clean," Ms. Cunningham said.

• Helping pork producers understand how their Checkoff played a role in the recovery from the H1N1 outbreak in the spring. In any crisis situation, the key is to return to business as usual as quickly as possible, Ms. Cunningham said. "We were committed to taking the necessary steps to address the H1N1 issue right from the start so producers could continue to sell their pigs and sell pork."

• Scheduling webinars with packers, retailers, foodservice, ag media and dieticians. A representative from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as a representative from the National Animal Disease Center, will be presenting such webinars this fall. They will be recorded so producers can access them at a later date.

• Offering third party-spokesperson training in September in Des Moines.

• Scheduling desk-side visits with national media for the week of Sept. 21.

Key to the H1N1 crisis management plan is being able to communicate quickly with pork producers, Ms. Cunningham said.

"The one thing that would help us greatly is if pork producers would give us their e-mail addresses, which we would only use in a crisis situation like this," she added. "Then we can immediately reach them with the information they need."

Pork producers are urged to call the Pork Checkoff at 800-456-PORK (7675), or e-mail pork@pork.org to submit their e-mail addresses.

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