The Skinny on the Pig Farm Connection

Jon is a staff writer for Science.

Several news reports about the swine flu outbreak have pointed a finger at a massive pig farm in Veracruz, Mexico, as the potential source of the first transmission to humans. Fat chance, says the company.

A local paper went so far as to assert in a headline on 15 April—before the outbreak was officially recognized—that the company, Granjas Carroll, caused an epidemic of respiratory infections in the Veracruz town of La Gloria. The story gained extra momentum yesterday when the Mexican government said the first confirmed case was in a boy from a town near La Gloria. But Mexican Health Secretary José Ángel Córdova stressed that 29 other suspected cases in the town did not have the new swine virus.

Smithfield Foods, the largest producer of hogs in the United States and a 50% owner of Granjas Carroll, strongly rebutted these stories. “Smithfield has no reason to believe that the virus is in any way connected to its operations in Mexico,” the company said in a prepared statement on 26 April. Granjas Carroll tests its swine for influenza each month, according to the statement, and has “found no clinical signs or symptoms of the presence of swine influenza in the company's swine herd or its employees.” Swine influenza is not transmitted by pork products.

The company refused ScienceInsider’s request for an interview, but in a second statement issued today, it again stressed that it was “fully cooperating with Mexican officials” and was “voluntarily submitting new samples from their swine herds for genetic sequence analysis and initial results are expected by week's end.”

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