Consumer Reports Study Finds Pork Teeming With Bacteria

uncooked pork chops
uncooked pork chops

Oh, you dirty swine.

A new and alarming Consumer Reports study found that pork chops and ground pork are teeming with nasty bacteria that cause food poisoning, CBS News reports.

Urvashi Rangan, Consumer Reports' director of consumer safety and sustainability, told CBS, "We found potentially harmful bacteria on most of the samples of pork that we tested. One organism we looked at, enterococcus, is more a measure of filth indication, maybe fecal contamination." Eleven percent of samples tested positive for enterococcus, which can cause urinary tract infections and other health issues.

Of the nearly 200 pork samples tested by Consumer Reports, 3-7 percent tested positive for salmonella, listeria and/or staphylococcus bacteria. The magazine found that nearly 70 percent contained yersinia, which infects nearly 100,000 Americans a year and causes fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Overall, only 23 percent of the samples harbored none of the tested bacteria. That means a whopping 77 percent of the meat contained some kind of bacteria that causes food-bourne illness.

And that's not all, folks. In addition, 90 percent of the bacteria Consumer Reports found were antibiotic-resistant "superbugs." "The frequent use of low-dose antibiotics in pork farming may be accelerating the growth of drug-resistant 'superbugs' that threaten human health," the magazine says.

Brands tested included Farmer John, Farmer John California Natural, Hormel, Nature's Promise, Smithfield, Swift Premium, and Tender Choice. Store brands included Bristol Farms, Food 4 Less, Fresh & Easy, Ralphs, Safeway, Sprouts, Vons, Walmart and Whole Foods.

Consumer Reports was also alarmed by traces of ractopamine in one-fifth of the pork they tested. Farmers use the drug, originally developed to treat asthma but never approved for human use, on pigs to produce leaner cuts of meat. It is banned in the European Union, China and Taiwan. (Some food companies, including Chipotle Mexican Grill, Niman Ranch and Whole Foods, say they don't sell any meat from pigs raised with ractopamine.)

The study found that ground pork was more likely than pork chops to harbor pathogens. Consumer Reports offered a couple of tips to minimize your health risks when choosing pork:

"When cooking pork, use a meat thermometer to ensure that it reaches the proper internal temperature, which kills potentially harmful bacteria: at least 145° F for whole pork and 160° F for ground pork.

"Choose pork and other meat products that were raised without drugs. One way to do that is to buy certified organic pork, from pigs raised without antibiotics or ractopamine. Another option is to buy from Whole Foods, which requires that producers not use either type of drug."


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