DENVER – In the early stages of the H1N1 influenza outbreak earlier this year, approximately two-thirds of China’s consumers stopped eating pork and more than one in five consumers in the world’s largest pork market still believe eating pork can result in catching the flu virus, according to a survey of 1,200 Chinese consumers commissioned last month by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

While addressing the Fifth International Meat Secretariat (I.M.S.) World Conference in Qingdao, China, on Sept. 3, Joel Haggard, senior vice president Asia-Pacific for U.S.M.E.F., said China may have been more affected by the H1N1 virus outbreak than previously suspected.

"In the early stages of the outbreak, 64% of Chinese consumers refrained from pork consumption," Mr. Haggard said, citing research conducted Aug. 6-10 by Sinotrace Marketing Research Company of 200 consumers in each of six Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Shenyang.

Months after the initial outbreak, 21.2% of those surveyed still believe eating pork can lead to catching the H1N1 virus. Despite efforts by the Chinese government to educate consumers regarding the safety of pork, 54.7% of those who fear the connection between pork and the flu virus say it is because the virus has been labeled "swine flu."

"The research suggests the initial Chinese consumer reaction to H1N1 was sharp, and that a significant number of consumers may still associate the virus with pork and hogs," Mr. Haggard said.