John Howard, giving a presentation on the relationship between the media and the food industry at a meeting of the Food Club, said the issue was being blown out of proportion. "It's fair to say the media has gone beserk when it comes to swine flu. It's just another type of flu, that's all it is."
He said it was disgraceful that more fuss was being made over this flu outbreak than the ongoing problem of MRSA in hospitals, which kills 7,000 people a year. And he questioned where the term "swine flu" had come from: "No pig has ever caught swine flu, apart from a recent case in Canada where the infection was passed from a human. It's not a disease that has ever appeared in pigs."
However, he said while the official name for the disease may well be H1N1, "the genie was out of the bottle" and the term "swine flu" was now firmly stuck in the minds of the media.
He highlighted the fractious relationship between the media and the food industry, stating there was a general air of antipathy among journalists and food writers towards the modern food sector. "We see an undiminished appetite for scares about food and that continues unabated."
But he admitted that, too often, food businesses were seen to only be interested in defending their commercial interests.