To reassure consumers that pork is safe and will continue to be safe to eat, the National Pork Board on Thursday authorized funds for a national media advertising campaign. Starting next week, ads will be targeted to major daily newspapers and a variety of Internet-based media.

“We have been conducting nightly consumer research this week to measure consumer reaction to the deluge of information about ‘swine,’” says Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board. “Even though the World Health Organization, the U.S. State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and others have said this influenza strain should be called H1N1 and not swine flu, we needed to know if consumer behavior is being impacted.”

More than 8 of 10 consumers surveyed continue to believe that pork is safe to eat, based on the daily consumer tracking research. Also, more than 9 of 10 consumers who have purchased pork products recently believe that pork is safe.

“But we know from the research that there is additional work that needs to be done to provide assurances for consumers,” Novak says. “In addition to emphasizing the pork safety message, this advertising effort also gives us the opportunity to remind consumers about the nutritional benefits from eating pork.”

The advertising message will be distributed to both newspapers with national reach and to some regional newspapers, plus online search engines and sites that reach those consumers who make food purchasing decisions.

The board approved additional funding for other efforts to get the “pork is safe” message to consumers including making experts about food safety and nutrition available to television stations and to other media.

“The early and extensive reporting of this terrible disease as swine flu, even though international health organizations were saying there has been no proven connection between this virus and pigs, did some damage,” Novak says.

“It has been devastating for our producers who have seen hog prices fall each day this week,” he states. “But the positive consumer attitudes about the safety of pork we are seeing in our tracking research are good news. We are optimistic that consumers will continue to make pork part of their families’ daily meals.”

National Pork Board President Steve Weaver notes that record-high grain prices this past year have put many producers in a perilous financial position. “The events of the last week have added to that stress,” the California pork producer says. “The National Pork Board understands these challenges and remains committed to doing whatever it can to help producers in these difficult economic times.”