Study Finds Most Pork Contaminated With Yersinia Bacteria

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A new warning may have consumers thinking twice before eating pork chops. A sample of raw pork products from supermarkets around the United States found a dangerous bacteria present in the meats that put children most at risk.

Yersinia enterocolitica, a lesser-known food-borne pathogen, was present in 69 percent of the pork products tested, according to a study released today by Consumer Reports.

More than 100,000 Americans are affected by the bacteria a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For every case that is confirmed with a laboratory test, about 120 more cases escape diagnosis. The bacteria can hit hard. Symptoms can include fever, cramps and bloody diarrhea.

In the Consumer Reports study, ground pork turned out to be riskier than pork chops. In the samples taken, 69 percent tested positive for Yersenia and 11 percent for enterococcus, which can indicate fecal contamination.

“The results were concerning,” Urvashi Rangan, one of the authors of the report, told “It’s hard to say that there was no problem. It shows that there needs to be better hygiene at animal plants. Yersinia wasn’t even being monitored for.”

In response, the Pork Producer's Council argued the methods used by Consumer Reports did not provide an adequate estimate of the bacteria from the samples.

Despite the findings, cooking the pork properly and thoroughly can kill the bacteria.

Pork cuts should be cooked to 145 degrees, while ground pork needs to reach a temperature of 160 degrees to kill the bacteria. However, it can easily spread to various kitchen surfaces.

“Anything that touches raw meat should go into the dishwasher before touching anything else,” Rangan said. ”Juices from raw meat that touch the counter should be washed with hot soapy water.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the findings “affirm that companies are meeting the established guidelines for protecting the public’s health.

In a statement, the department says:

“USDA will remain vigilant against emerging and evolving threats to the safety of America’s supply of meat, poultry and processed egg products, and we will continue to work with the industry to ensure companies are following food safety procedures in addition to looking for new ways to strengthen the protection of public health."