Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, is asking officials from the Centers for Disease Control to do more to help rescue the pork industry from a public relations nightmare. The C.D.C. website says there is "currently" no evidence one can get the H-1-N-1 flu from eating pork products.
During a congressional hearing this new strain of the flu, Loebsack made a direct appeal to C.D.C. officials.
"Can you be less equivocal and state that one may not get this influenza from pork products?" Loebsack asked. "…I understand why you use this language. There’s no evidence currently right now that anyone’s gotten, you know, the influenza from pork. But can we go further from that and say that there’s no way, if you will, that anyone can get this influenza from pork products?"
Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control responded, giving Loebsack a little of what he asked, but then adding something he probably didn’t want re-aired.
"People don’t need to be worried about eating pork in terms of this particular virus," she said. "Influenza viruses can affect swine…Swine can become ill from influenza viruses, but everything we know about what’s going on right now suggests you don’t need to worry about pork in terms of eating that or handling it."
Loebsack thanked the doctor for "going that far" but then asked her to do more.
"We’ve placed communication as our highest priority really in this response ’cause information and misinformation are important in how the public reacts and the unintended consequences," she told Loebsack. "In terms of the pork issue, we’ve been working with both USDA and the Pork Board and other business concerns to understand what we can do to clarify the issue. You know, here in the U.S. this is an issue. In other countries it’s an issue as well and we’re really trying to be sensitive to both the cultural and economic impacts of our words."
China has banned pork imports from Iowa and other states where H1N1 cases have been confirmed. Loebsack calls that "very unfortunate."
If you’d like to watch the exchange between Loebsack and the C.D.C. doctor, click here .