Consumers have been urged not to damage the UK pig industry by turning their backs on pork products over swine flu fears.

While the H1N1 virus may have originated in pigs, the National Pig Association said it was a human health risk because it was being transmitted between people.

And as the World Health Organisation had confirmed it was safe to eat pork products, it was important consumers did not stop eating pigmeat, the NPA added.

DEFRA chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbons said there was no reason for people to stop eating pork.

“Swine influenza cannot be transmitted by eating pork products,” he said. “Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is perfectly safe.”

Mr Gibbons said existing EU rules preventing imports of all live pigs and pigmeat from Mexico into the EU would remain in place.

So far more than 100 people in Mexico have died from the virus, which causes fever, aches, coughing, respiratory congestion and in some cases, vomiting.

The virus is usually contracted through direct contact with pigs, but the UN said those who had so far been infected had not had contact with any animals.

The strain is the same one that causes seasonal flu outbreaks in humans, but the detected version contains genetic material from versions of flu which usually affect pigs and birds.

Mr Gibbons said swine flu is currently present in the UK pig herd, but at a “low level”. Last year, 396 pigs were tested for the disease, of which 13 were positive.

However the UK pig herd was continually monitored for swine flu and there was currently no evidence of the Mexican variant of the disease, he added.

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