In the grip of this virulent news meme known as swine flu there are some serious dietary questions that need to be considered.
Can I catch swine flu from eating pork products?
Not if you cook them properly, all the way through. The virus is destroyed above 160 F (85 C) so that even boiling it will kill any virus or bacteria that had made a comfortable home lodged in the flesh. The US Center for Disease Control is disingenuous here, firstly flatly stating that one cannot catch swine flu from any pork product, then covering its back saying best to cook it.
Can I catch swine flu from eating cured pork products like Parma ham and salami?
Good question; so much so that the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham Consortium) had to issue a public statement reassuring consumers that Parma ham was absolutely safe to eat. You can read it here, if you can read Italian.
The press release gave three reasons why their ham is safe to eat. Firstly, there is no research linking the swine flu virus with transmission through eating pork. True, but see the previous advice. Secondly, the designation "Parma Ham" - or more accurately "Prosciutto di Parma" - is a protected name with many rules and regulations regarding quality control, including the source of the pigs themselves. So, trust us, our pigs are healthy and safe to eat! However, the best reason is saved till last: that the curing process destroys any viruses that may have been present. Parma ham is cured for at least 12 months and from research done viruses die in such an environment after 3 to 6 months. Again, no research has been done on this particular swine flu virus.
So in some respects this is good news for Parma as it trumpets its own superior quality. As to other cured meats just make sure they've been cured for at least 6 months to be safe. Cooking Parma ham is a sheer waste of an expensive delicacy but one can quickly fry salami - slam in a couple of eggs and I've been told it's a popular breakfast in Mexico, of all places! Any product that is on the shelves at the moment is going to have been produced months if not years ago so is almost certainly safe. With regards to any pork product made by Smithfield Foods... erm... the decision is entirely yours!
Just hoping the price of Parma ham drops during this period.