As Good As Ever: Filipino Pork Delicacy Unaffected By Flu Scares

by Tanya Thomas on  May 2, 2009 at 8:57 AM Lifestyle News
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In the midst of all the gloom and doom of the pig flu, good sense and well, good food have prevailed in the Philippines! The country just cannot stay off its favourite dish of "lechon", slowly roasted pig.
 As Good As Ever: Filipino Pork Delicacy Unaffected By Flu Scares
As Good As Ever: Filipino Pork Delicacy Unaffected By Flu Scares

American TV chef Anthony Bourdain called it "the holy grail of pork" and Time magazine the "Best Pig" in Asia.

"We are not affected by it because we know that the sickness is not related at all with eating our product," said Lydia De Roca, 62, owner of "Lydia's Lechon," a popular chain of roast pig restaurants dotted around the country.

"Our food is clean. We don't import pigs from other countries and we certainly don't buy low-quality ones," she added defiantly.

On a recent lunch time at her main branch in the centre of capital Manila, there was hardly a space to be had as diners eagerly tucked in, and De Roca said none of her 19 branches in the capital had experienced a drop in sales.

Lydia's Lechon is just one of many restaurants in the area where pigs are slow-roasted over charcoal in full view of diners. With its golden-brown skin and its juicy white meat, the dish is a fixture at Filipino celebrations.

Lechon-makers roast whole, freshly slaughtered animals and typically use locally raised pigs, a fact they are currently highlighting to reassure patrons.

The government is also doing its bit to communicate that humans cannot get swine flu by eating pork and although the Philippines produces most of its pork needs, imports from Canada, US and Mexico have been banned just in case.

The epicentre of the outbreak, in Mexico there have been 12 confirmed deaths from the illness and 300 others infected, while there have also been infections in Canada, the US and across the globe, but not yet in the Philippines.

Similarly conscious calling the illness "swine flu" had given the impression the virus could be spread by contact with pigs, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now officially referring to it as Influenza A (H1N1).

The Philippines government had already highlighted the new strain of flu could not be caught from eating pig meat when Health Secretary Francisco Duque said: "You get flu when someone sneezes or coughs on you. Meat does not sneeze or cough on people."

Nevertheless, pig farmers in many countries have been hit hard and dozens of countries have imposed bans on pork imports.

But sellers of the Philippines' signature dish go on much as before.

Zennaida Correa, owner of "Hiedy's Lechon", said she has not suffered a sales dip, saying that previous outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu fears have done more to deter customers.

"I know about swine flu and you definitely don't get it by eating roasted pigs," Myra Valencia said as she accompanied her husband and child to a lechon stall.

"I just wanted to eat lechon," said another diner, Frederico Bautista. "I have heard about swine flu from the newspapers and television but I don't know if eating roasted pigs was the source of it."

Pork prices have fallen recently in Manila public markets but Eliseo Yu, head of the National Federation of Hog Farmers, said this is part of a seasonal demand cycle and is not related to the flu.

Source: AFP

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