WASHINGTON — Despite industry-wide efforts, the mainstream media continues using the term "swine flu" when referring to the Novel H1N1 virus. In an effort to help set the record straight, J. Patrick Boyle, president and chief executive officer of the American Meat Institute, sent a letter to 25 TV network executives around the country urging them to no longer use the term.
In the Aug. 28 letter, Mr. Boyle pointed out the detrimental impact of the misnomer and encouraged news outlets to provide balanced and accurate information to consumers about the Novel H1N1 influenza virus.
Several weeks ago, an industry outreach addressing this matter went out to 4,500 radio, print and television health and education reporters and producers throughout the U.S.
In Mr. Boyle’s most recent letter to the heads of networks ranging from CNN to Telemundo, he wrote: "It is not the American Meat Institute’s opinion alone that the inaccurate reporting is harmful. The World Organization for Animal Health (O.I.E.) Director General Bernard Vallat wrote, ‘This incorrect nomenclature has led many countries — at the beginning at least — to impose unjustified ban measures related to the import of pigs and pig products. It should be noted that the name of a disease always has heavy implications and has a very strong impact on the behavior of consumers worldwide.’"
Mr. Boyle’s letter also iterates that Novel H1N1 is a human disease and is not, nor ever has been, a food-safety issue.
"Pigs have not played any role in the spread of the virus," Mr. Boyle said. "We urge you to remind your reporters and producers that continued use of the term ‘swine flu’ is inaccurate and inappropriate and ask that your coverage de-link the virus from pigs or pork. We ask that you refrain from using pig graphics in your reporting as it reinforces the perception that a link has existed between the Novel H1N1 virus and pig production — something that is regrettable, inaccurate, yet commonly seen."