Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bring home the bacon

As a communications guy, I was a little disturbed by this article on the CBC site this morning:

"Pork safe to eat despite WHO warning, Canadian officials stress


Canadian health officials maintain pork is safe to eat despite comments from the World Health Organization that the swine flu virus could survive freezing and remain in the thawed meat and blood of infected pigs.


Earlier Wednesday, the WHO's director of food safety said meat from pigs infected with the H1N1 influenza A virus shouldn't be used for human consumption.

Jorgen Schlundt told Reuters the blood of pigs infected with the H1N1 flu virus might survive the freezing process.

"Meat from sick pigs or pigs found dead should not be processed or used for human consumption under any circumstances," he wrote in an email to the news agency."

There's nothing in the article that wasn't correct, and in fact the article did go on to quote Canada's Chief Veterinary Officer as saying, "This doesn't change anything in Canada. What the WHO is saying is what we do every day, every week, every month, every year as part of our food inspection system."

My issue was the fact that so many people only read headlines, and that headline unintentionally feeds into the misinformation out there already about the safety of pork. And the Chinese government's overreaction as well.

What's easy to miss here, beneath media storm of the day, is that there are real dangers from the movement of meat across borders that have nothing to do with swine flu. First, there's good old mad cow disease. Scientists believe that a swine foot-in-mouth virus outbreak in the '50s was caused by a single smuggled sausage dropped in a barnyard. SARS was traced to the civet cat trade in Asia. The illegal live bird trade could still infect our flocks (and us) with H5N1 influenza. People get caught at the borders all the time. Others slip through.

So where's the advertising angle in this? Travellers' Biosecurity is another safety issue we've addressed for the government with a national print, Web, TV and inflight video campaign. You can see our TV spot (in 11 different languages!) here: LINK

That TV spot was shot in the Ottawa International Airport, almost two years ago. We couldn't shut down the arrivals area, so we just took over half of it while the international passengers passed us by. (Interesting bit of trivia: The customs guy is a real agent, who works part-time as an actor.)

We also addressed the bird flu issue directly, with this ad: LINK

Bottom line: your bacon is fine, as long as it didn't arrive in somebody's suitcase.

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