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Notebook: Woes at the butcher's block

Text by Battiste FENWICK , FRANCE 24's special correspondent in Mexico

Latest update : 2009-05-06

Originally branded the "swine flu", the Influenza A (H1N1) epidemic that spread out from Mexico was, to the great dismay of butchers, first rumoured to come from contaminated pork meat.

Friday, May 1

Even if scientists agree that there are no health risks in eating pork meat, its market price is now in freefall.

In the Central de Abastos, one of Mexico biggest wholesale food markets, it’s business as usual.

But take a closer look and you will notice that Central de Abastos is actually not running at full capacity these days. The market is organised by products: vegetables, fruit, dairy products, etc.  But unlike its produce neighbours, the meat section is almost empty, even if pork meat is highly prized in Mexico and consumed in heaping quantities.

The lowered metal gratings are cold, hard proof of the crisis.  It is only 1 pm, but the San Jose Butchery is the only one open for business.

Its keeper confirms he is a victim of the crisis: his sales have taken a considerable blow.  However, he says he is unwilling to give up, and has decided to keep the store open.  He even admits that, personally, he continues to eat pork meat on a daily basis. “There is no risk of infection. Besides, our sanitary conditions are exemplary.”

The public’s paranoia to pork meat has really harmed these butchers’ livelihood.  While they wait for better days to come, they hope they will not have to shut down their businesses for good.

If customers are ever scarcer, a few still wander into the store. “If the government and the scientists say we can eat pork meat, why not do so?” asks this shopper.

Read Battiste Fenwick's earlier posts from Mexico City on Thursday, April 30

Date created : 2009-05-01