As pork prices tumble, Minnesota won’t call it “swine flu”

By Chris Steller
Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 11:34 am


Minnesota’s top health officials are in close communication with the Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta about the new flu that has killed more than 100 people in Mexico. But they aren’t calling the flu by the same name. The CDC calls it “swine flu,” but Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan says the official state term is “H1N1 novel influenza.”

“We’re trying to get away from the term ‘swine flu,’” Magnan said at a press conference today with Gov. Tim Pawlenty and State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield.

“’Swine flu’ gives a connotation that it shouldn’t have,” Magnan said. “People wonder about eating pork. … We really want to get away from it.”

A question from the Minnesota Independent prompted another visit to the topic later in the press conference. “Swine flu” can lead people to associate the disease with eating pork, officials said, making “H1N1 novel influenza” a better description – though “it’s a mouthful.”

Also, the flu spreads from person to person, so the word “swine” might confuse that message about transmission, officials said.

State officials expect the CDC may come around to Minnesota’s terminology in the next few days.

The World Health Organization has suggested another term: “North American flu.”

A possible reason for the name change: The “swine flu” label has the nation’s pork industry squealing, as hog prices plummet in apparent worry over public misperceptions that pork is unsafe to eat. The Des Moines Register reports that the price of hogs, once as high as $80 per hundredweight, dropped from $69 per hundredweight Friday to $66 per hundredweight Monday on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and price of futures contracts for lean hogs dropped five cents per pound, to 66 cents, in the past two days.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was emphatic:

I want to reiterate the same message to our trading partners — our pork and pork products are safe. The discovery of this virus in humans is not a basis for restricting imports of commercially produced U.S. pork and pork products.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano weighed in as well, using Minnesota’s preferred term:

You should also know that you cannot get H1N1 from eating pork. Pork products are perfectly safe.

The movement away from the term “swine flu” is moving fast in an attempt to outpace the growing list of countries banning American pork.

But it’s got a ways to go: the Minnesota Department of Health’s Web site, like the University of Minnesota‘s, calls it swine flu. They’re in good company. The federal government’s main Web site for citizens to get information about the outbreak still goes by the address



John Slade
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

BUT – it’s an American pork producer who’s plant in Mexico is implicated in the situation.

How “The NAFTA Flu” Exploded
Smithfield Farms Fled US Environmental Laws to Open a Gigantic Pig Farm in Mexico, and All We Got Was this Lousy Swine Flu

By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

April 29, 2009

US and Mexico authorities claim that neither knew about the “swine flu” outbreak until April 24. But after hundreds of residents of a town in Veracruz, Mexico, came down with its symptoms, the story had already hit the Mexican national press by April 5. The daily La Jornada reported:

Clouds of flies emanate from the rusty lagoons where the Carroll Ranches business tosses the fecal wastes of its pig farms, and the open-air contamination is already generating an epidemic of respiratory infections in the town of La Gloria, in the Perote Valley, according to Town Administrator Bertha Crisóstomo López.

The town has 3,000 inhabitants, hundreds of whom reported severe flu symptoms in March.

» The rebranding of ’swine flu’ - The Cycle - PRWeek Blogs
Pingback posted April 29, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

[...] prices have slumped in recent days as countries like Russia and China have restricted imported pork from the [...]

George Hayduke
Comment posted April 29, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

Excuse me, but isn’t this MINNESOTA HEALTH COMMISSIONER Dr. Sanne Magnan talking, not Minnesota Pork Producers Association Spokesperson Dr. Sanne Magnan? What the hell is a health commissioner doing trying to confuse the public about a potential life-threatening pandemic by calling it by some name known only to about 10 pathologists? The state should be sayin’ “See ya” to Sanne for carrying the pork producers’ water on this one at the risk of public health and safety.

Emma Smith
Comment posted April 30, 2009 @ 7:48 am

Pork is not to be blamed. Give it a rest! The flu virus spreads through human contact. Calling it the h1n1 virus is a good start. Keep yourself updated, add the swine flu tracklet at to get updates!

Brix Smith
Comment posted April 30, 2009 @ 8:43 am

Industrial meat production is toxic to ALL living things, no matter what name you call it.

Comment posted April 30, 2009 @ 11:15 am

From an email I received this morning from the Shalom Center in Philadelphia

“Dear folks,

There is a lot more to the swine flu outbreak than a virus and a vaccine: There is, surprise surprise, a political-economic context.

First of all, the press in Mexico has been reporting that swine flu may have originated in the factory farming of pigs by Smithfield Foods (the world’s largest pork packer and hog producer).

Smithfield has a major plant in Mexico -at Perote 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.

The Vera Cruz-based paper La Marcha wrote this headline: “Granjas Carroll, causa de epidemia en La Gloria.”

The Mexico City daily La Jornada has also made the link — saying that the Mexican health agency IMSS has acknowledged that the original carrier for the flu could be the “clouds of flies” that multiply in the Smithfield subsidiary’s manure lagoons.

Please note that one week into the epidemic, not a single major American newspaper has reported even the possibility that factory farming may be implicated in swine flu. The power of the meat industry could not be more graphically underlined. (In President Obama’s most recent news conference, he even used an esoteric medical name for the virus to avoid mentioning the connection with pigs.)

There is also another political link. When the Stimulus Bill (“Recovery Act”) came to the floor of Congress, it included appropriations of almost a billion dollars to prepare for a possible flu pandemic. But Karl Rove organized Republicans to demand that this money be taken out of the bill, and when Senator Susan M. Collins of Maine agreed to vote down a filibuster against the bill, one of her demands was that the pandemic appropriation be stripped out. It was.

Somehow the notion that health is more than a private personal concern, that it involves the whole community and indeed the whole planet, has escaped the attention of some who call themselves “conservatives.” “

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