Politics of the Plate: Ground Zero for Swine Flu

Recent reports indicate that the emerging epidemic could be linked to unsanitary conditions at a factory hog farm.
swine flu

Late last week, Tom Philpott at Grist pointed to evidence that a massive factory hog farm in the Mexican state of Veracruz could be the source of the current worldwide influenza outbreak. A report in the Times of London this week also singles out the facility, located in the Mexican town of La Gloria.

The farm, which raises a million pigs per year, is partially owned by Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the United States. According to the Times, people living near the facility have long complained about the stench and the hordes of flies emanating from the operation’s manure lagoon.

Many area residents became sick with a respiratory disease in February. One of them, a four-year-old boy who has since recovered, was found to have had swine flu—the first recorded case.

For years, environmental groups have been warning that the viruses, bacteria, antibiotics, metals, oxygen-depleting substances, and other toxins in factory-farm wastewater posed a threat to public health.

Keira Ullrich, a spokeswoman for Smithfield, told the Times that the company had found no clinical signs or symptoms of the presence of influenza in its herd or its employees.

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