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'The other white meat' got a bad rap

May 4, 2009 - Per Peterson
Finally, the United States government is telling us it IS safe to eat something instead of telling us what NOT to eat. The government is going the extra mile in letting everyone know that the word “swine” really shouldn’t be associated with the H1N1 flu and that eating pork won't hurt you. When the outbreak — first known only as “swine flu” — hit the U.S. pork producers across the country started getting nervous about their industry, and rightfully so. After a time, debate at the highest level began on what to call this thing. Finally, it looks as though we’ve settled on H1N1 — the scientific name for this viral string. We’ve become accustomed to hearing reports about the harmful effects that come from eating certain foods. The government warns us that eating this product or that isn’t healthy. When there’s a salmonella scare, for example, we’re told not to eat this or that. Pretty refreshing to hear that same government tell us that it’s perfectly OK to go ahead and eat something without fear of repercussions. From a media standpoint, it’s kind of a gray area. The Associated Press still refers to it as “swine flu,” as does CNN. But if you look at the main page at, you won’t see the word “swine.” You’ll see “flu” and “H1N1,” but not “swine.” Locally, same goes with WCCO and KARE 11’s respective sites. However, KSTP’s Channel 5 Eyewitness News site does use the word “swine” in one of its headlines and uses it in stories as well. As the news editor at the Independent, I’ve tried to avoid using “swine” in headlines I put in the paper. I’m not a scientist, but I do recognize the kind of damage that can be done to the pork industry if a certain percentage of Americans get scared off and stop buying pork products. I want to go with what’s accurate, and H1N1 seems to be more accurate than “swine.” It’s a flu, simple as that. We still don’t know a lot about it, but enough evidence has been produced to convince the government to drop the “swine.” So, like our nation's leaders have told us for the last week or so, don’t be afraid to eat pork. It won’t hurt you. Go ahead and pig out.


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