Swine Flu Caused by Smithfield Foods Subsidiary?

Is Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork packer and hog producer, linked to the outbreak?  Granjas Carroll de Mexico, a Smithfield CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) hog farm in Perote, Mexico (where the outbreak originated) raised and sold 950,000 hogs last year. That’s nearly a million hogs!

Biosurveillance, an infectious disease event detection and tracking organization, published a timeline on Friday of the outbreak.  On April 6, they report:

Local health officials declared a health alert due to a respiratory disease outbreak in La Gloria, Perote Municipality, Veracruz State, Mexico. Sources characterized the event as a “strange” outbreak of acute respiratory infection, which led to bronchial pneumonia in some pediatric cases. According to a local resident, symptoms included fever, severe cough, and large amounts of phlegm. Health officials recorded 400 cases that sought medical treatment in the last week in La Gloria, which has a population of 3,000; officials indicated that 60% of the town’s population (approximately 1,800 cases) has been affected. No precise timeframe was provided, but sources reported that a local official had been seeking health assistance for the town since February.

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.

Biosurveillance clarifies this information was used to flag an event as worthy of closer scrutiny and higher awareness, as there was absolutely no proof of true involvement of this company in the outbreak – a proper epidemiological investigation is required to prove such links.

Granjas Carroll de Mexico is a “factory farm”, raising nearly a million hogs last year for slaughter. Can you imagine how much manure and waste is generated by a million pigs?  Where do you put it?  How do you get rid of it?

Residents have long complained of “fetid odors” in the air and water, and swarms of flies hovering around waste lagoons. With 30 percent (or more) of the area’s residents suddenly infected with the virulent flu bug, people are demanding that state and federal authorities inspect hog operations there. So far, reports La Marcha, a Vera Cruz based newspaper, the response has been, nada.

Could the source of this swine flu be from the “clouds of flies” that multiply in the manure lagoons? Why not contact Smithfield Foods’ corporate office in New York and ask them?  Their phone number is 1-212-758-2100.

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