As of this morning, there have been 286 confirmed cases and one death related to influenza A/H1N1 (formerly known as "swine flu") in the United States. None of these cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) H1N1 FAQs Web site, had anything to do with consuming pork products: "H1N1 viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get this new H1N1 virus from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe."

An April 30 Crain's New York Business article reported that several independent New York City restaurants have noticed a slight drop in patrons ordering pork. To combat it, restaurant owners are training staff to field questions relating to the H1N1 flu and eating pork. The situation is also providing the opportunity to discuss sustainable husbandry practices.

"My hopeful assumption is that people know how we source our animals," said Andrew Tarlow, co-owner of sustainably focused Marlow & Sons in Brooklyn, in the Crain's New York Business article. "People should be asking, 'How did this happen?'"

On May 1, in an interview for Chicago Public Radio's news magazine program "Eight-Forty-Eight," chef/partner Bruce Sherman of North Pond, a champion of seasonal and small-farm products, said, "When you force tens of hundreds of animals in a small space, and they’re crawling over each other or they’re on concrete beds, foraging through their own waste, sitting in it and sleeping in it, it can’t help but affect the sanitation and health of the pig and the community around it.

"I think ultimately, for us as cooks, it’s because the [sustainably raised] product tastes better. It tastes better because the animals are able to lead a more natural existence … so it develops more flavor, it’s got more characteristics from what it eats and where it eats and how it eats than something that is stuck inside a warehouse or a pen," Sherman continued.

While independent restaurants have not reported decreased traffic, some restaurant chains are experiencing a drop in same-store sales as customers and their families avoid busy public places, according to a May 1 CNN Money article.

Basic flu prevention tips. Because influenza is mainly spread person-to-person through the coughing or sneezing of infected people, the CDC recommends the following:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Stay home if you get sick to limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Precautionary actions for restaurant operators. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) advises the following:
  • Maintain a healthy work environment. Ensure adequate air circulation, and post tips on how to stop the spread of germs. The CDC's Web site offers basic facts on the H1N1/swine flu and general tips on avoiding the flu. Promote hand and respiratory hygiene for your employees, and ensure easy availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Communicate openly and proactively with your employees. Remind employees that following good hygiene and sanitation practices in the restaurant and staying home when they are ill can help prevent transmission of many illnesses, not just influenza. The NRA offers guidance on communicating with your employees.
  • Be informed about government and industry pandemic preparedness activities and plans. Preparation is key to protecting customers, staff and your business. In the case that an outbreak would ever become a pandemic situation, use information provided to you by the NRA and other industry resources, be familiar with your state and local pandemic plans, and maintain contact with the appropriate officials. Monitor news and developments coming from the federal government on pandemic preparedness through sources such as and the CDC's swine flu resource. has a section to help businesses prepare for a pandemic.