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Mexican press: Brought to you by Big Food -- Swine Flu!

Could Smithfield Farms Mexican operation be "Hog Farm Zero" of the epidemic?

The outbreak of a new flu strain—a nasty mash-up of swine, avian, and human viruses—has infected 1000 people in Mexico and the U.S., killing 68. The World Health Organization warned Saturday that the outbreak could reach global pandemic levels.

Is Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork packer and hog producer, linked to the outbreak? Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. The operations, grouped under a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carrol, raise 950,000 hogs per year, according to the company Web site—a level nearly equal to Smithfield’s total U.S. hog production.

On Friday, the U.S. disease-tracking blog Biosurveillance published a timeline of the outbreak containing this nugget, dated April 6 (major tip of the hat to Paula Hay, who alerted me to the Smithfield link on the Comfood listserv and has written about it on her blog, Peak Oil Entrepreneur):

Residents [of Perote] believed the outbreak had been caused by contamination from pig breeding farms located in the area. They believed that the farms, operated by Granjas Carroll, polluted the atmosphere and local water bodies, which in turn led to the disease outbreak. According to residents, the company denied responsibility for the outbreak and attributed the cases to “flu.” However, a municipal health official stated that preliminary investigations indicated that the disease vector was a type of fly that reproduces in pig waste and that the outbreak was linked to the pig farms. It was unclear whether health officials had identified a suspected pathogen responsible for this outbreak.

From what I can tell, the possible link to Smithfield has not been reported in the U.S. press. Searches of Google News and the websites of the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal all came up empty. The link is being made in the Mexican media, however. “Granjas Carroll, causa de epidemia en La Gloria,” declared a headline in the Vera Cruz-based paper La Marcha. No need to translate that, except to point out that La Gloria is the village where the outbreak seems to have started. Judging from the article, Mexican authorities treat hog CAFOs with just as much if not more indulgence than their peers north of the border, to the detriment of surrounding communities and the general public health.

You want flies with that?

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Card-carrying_Buddhist's picture
Submitted by Card-carrying_B... on

That's very disturbing.

TonyRz's picture
Submitted by TonyRz on

I don't have the linky goodness, or the energy to find it right now, but did u know that Trichinosis is making a comeback? Yyyyup. This was something I heard a couple weeks back. I'd say that's a bigger worry than swine flu, when looking at a piece of Petunia on your plate.

Anyway - at this point, Swine Flu is a potentially serious human-human problem, not so much a what's-on-your-plate problem, unless, of course, you consider the perfectly reasonable question of who prepared and touched your meal. Which otherwise informed people seem to be ... ignoring?

Or maybe your corporate overlords are just busy at work. I saw a PowerPoint on my teevee this weekend which reassured the masses that Swine Flu was not food-borne, by which I guess they meant eating pork. But if this is something they're issuing face-masks for, it's sure as hell something you can pick up by sampling at the salad bar.

So wash your hands, prep your own food, cook it thoroughly, brown-bag it, yadda yadda yadda.

That of course doesn't mean there's no room for discussion of our ruined food supply. We got a food problem, and we got a public health problem.