Sunday, May 3, 2009

Complaints of Unsanitary Conditions at U.S. Owned Pig Farm in Mexico

Mexican villagers and employees had complained about pollution, and unsanitary conditions to managers at a pig farm co-owned by U.S. company

By H. Nelson Goodson
May 3, 2009

La Gloria, Veracruz, Mexico - Mexican villagers and employees who did not want to be identified working at a farm operated by Granjas Carroll de Mexico, which is half-owned by Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, Inc. say they had previously filed three separate formal complaints with company supervisors and owners for unsanitary conditions at the farm. The village of La Gloria has a population of 3,000 and is within the municipal government of Perote in the State of Veracruz in Mexico.
The villagers in February complained to Mexican health officials about pig waste not properly disposed off, unsanitary conditions, pollution from a nearby pig farm, and probable contamination from pig waste leading to 450 cases of respiratory problems and symptoms related to H1N1 (Swine Flu) in late March. Villagers complained to authorities in Pereto, and blamed a farm that lies upwind, five miles (8.5 kilometers) to the north. The pig farm breeds and raises almost 1 million animals a year.
In early April, about one-sixth of the villagers in La Gloria began suffering from severe respiratory infections, according to Mexican health officials. They believe their village is ground zero for the H1N1 epidemic, despite denial from local officials and Federal Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova. Cordova said that 30 samples of mucus from villagers were taken to test for probable H1N1 and only Edgar Hernandez, 4, came back positive. Since then, Hernandez has recovered. The Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, Inc. has 16 pig breeding farms in the area.
Mexican health officials came in to inspect the allegations of unsanitary conditions and left. Nothing was ever done, suspecting the officials were paid off by the company to overlook the conditions until the H1N1 outbreak had taken place, according to the villagers. Now, the La Gloria villagers want justice and are demanding the Mexican federal government to investigate, if negligence by health officials played a part in the outbreak of the H1N1 Swine Flu.
A press release from Smithfield Foods, Inc. on April 26 said, that it had not found symptoms of the swine flu in its herd or in its employees in Mexico and that it was submitting samples to the University of Mexico for H1N1 testing, according to Smithfield spokeswoman Keira Ullrich.
Mexico's National Organization of Pig Production and Producers released its own statement, saying: “We deny completely that the influenza virus affecting Mexico originated in pigs because it has been scientifically demonstrated that this is not possible.”
The State of Veracruz, is home to thousands of farmers who claim their land was stolen from them by the Mexican Government in 1992. The farmers, who call themselves Los 400 Pueblos (The 400 Towns) are famous for their naked marches through the streets of Mexico City.

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