Vietnam to tighten controls over imported pork

Vietnam to tighten controls over imported porkHanoi - Vietnam will closely monitor imported pigs and imported pork products in an effort to prevent an outbreak of swine flu, government officials said Wednesday.

"We will apply several measures, including tightening control over pig imports and pork products," said Hoang Van Nam, deputy director of the Animal Health Department. "We may ban imports if we find swine flu strains."

However, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat was quoted by local media as saying, "There isn't any scientific evidence that swine flu has come from pork."

Vietnam imports breeding pigs, pork and pork products from the US, where the flu is spreading.

On Wednesday, health officials inspected several large supermarket chains, such as Metro and Big C.

Nam said the Veterinary Agency is compiling a dispatch on pig herds in Vietnam and putting together measures to monitor the pigs and slaughter houses.

The Veterinary Agency recommends that anybody who is in contact with pigs to wear protective gear such as masks and gloves. Consumers should only eat cooked pork and pork products.

The agency has asked the US Disease Control Centre (CDC) and the Australian Veterinary Agency for help to implement on-the-spot tests for swine flu in Vietnam.

Nam also said Vietnam was in contact with foreign labs, where samples would be sent for tests.

"We will close certain public places and limit travel to and from the flu-affected areas if the World Health Organization (WHO) raises its warning to level six," said Nguyen Huy Nga, head of the Health Ministry's Preventive Health Department.

Arrivals from the US and Mexico are being monitored. "We will take action if we discover anything abnormal," said Nga.

Nga asserts Vietnam is ready to cope with a flu outbreak, having devised a thorough plan in 2005.

On Tuesday, Vietnam's Health Ministry organized a meeting to discuss measures to prevent an outbreak.

According to local news reports, Vietnam has 15 flu-monitoring stations set up by the government in partnership with the CDC two years ago. No cases of swine flu have been reported in Vietnam.

Avian influenza has been a problem in Vietnam; four have died this year and a total of 52 deaths have been confirmed since 2003 when it first appeared in the country. Vietnam's toll is the second highest worldwide, after Indonesia. (dpa)