Entries in Pork (5)


Study Finds Most Pork Contaminated with Yersinia Bacteria

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A sample of raw pork products from supermarkets around the United States found that yersinia enterocolitica, a lesser-known food-borne pathogen, was present in 69 percent of the products tested, according to a study released Tuesday by Consumer Reports.

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

For its sample, Consumer Reports included the same pork products millions of Americans buy every day at their supermarkets. The study included 148 pork chops and 50 ground pork samples from around the United States.

In the samples tested, 69 percent tested positive for yersinia and 11 percent for enterococcus, which can indicate fecal contamination that can lead to urinary-tract infections. Salmonella and listeria, the more well-known bacterium, registered at four percent and three percent, respectively. Urvashi Rangan, one of the authors of the report, said the use of antibiotics in animals has created a “public health crisis” and is a reason for the findings.

“The results were concerning,” he told ABC News.  “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 a written statement, the Pork Producer’s Council questioned the methods used by Consumer Reports, saying the number of samples tested, 198, did "not provide a nationally informative estimate of the true prevalence of the cited bacteria on meat.”

Despite the findings, Rangan said it’s good to know that the bacteria can be killed by cooking the pork properly and by being vigilant about cross-contamination. Pork cuts should be cooked to 145 degrees, while ground pork needs to reach a temperature of 160 degrees to kill the bacteria.

“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.”

Consumers wanting to purchase pork that was raised without antibiotics should look for labels that read: “No antibiotics used,” “Animal Welfare Approved” or “Certified Humane.”

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

“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,” the department said in a statement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Investigation Finds High Rate of Food Poisoning Bacteria in Pork

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pork eaters beware: a new investigation has found high rates of a potentially harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning, especially in kids.

Consumer Reports tested 198 samples of meat from pork chops and ground pork and found yersinia enterocolitica in 69 percent of them.  The samples came from six U.S. cities and included many major store brands, according to the magazine.

What makes this bacteria dangerous is that it's resistant to antibiotics used to treat infections.  Consumer Reports says this can be a result of farmers feeding antibiotics to healthy pigs.

“Antibiotics are routinely fed to healthy animals at low levels.  This practice promotes the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria which are a major public health concern,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.  “Infections caused by resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat and can lead to increased suffering and costs.”

Each year, yersinia enterocolitica causes foodborne illness in about 100,000 Americans, the magazine reports.  It advises consumers to cook pork thoroughly and wash their hands after handling raw meat.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pork and Genes: How Pork Smells Genetically Determined, Says Study

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you find the smell of pork revolting, it could be because that's how you're genetically programmed to perceive it, according to a new study.

Scientists found that there's a gene responsible for how a compound in pork smells to humans. The gene determines whether pork smells like ammonia, urine and sweat, or if it smells more like vanilla. The compound, androstenone, is similar to testosterone and found in high concentrations in male pigs.

The researchers gave study subjects pork containing androstenone and separated them into two groups -- those who found the smell offensive and those who didn't. Genetic analysis of the subjects revealed that those who didn't like the smell had two copies of a specific form of a gene known as OR7D4. The others had only one copy of the gene.

But, it turns out, most people don't even notice the smell of androstenone.

"In North America and Europe, pigs are castrated, so the concentration of androstenone is quite low," said Hiroaki Matsunami, a co-author and associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University Medical Center. "The only time you find a high concentration of androsteone is when you eat wild boar meat."

That could soon change, however. The researchers noted that the European Union is considering a ban on castration because of concerns over animal welfare, and this debate has rekindled interest in how humans perceive the smell of pork and why two people may smell it differently.

"The data raise the possibility that more consumers will dislike male meat as a result of a castration ban," the authors wrote.

Androstenone is also found in other male animals, but it's found in particularly high amounts in swine, Matsunami said.

How food smells, as everyone knows, also affects how food tastes, and this research helps confirm just how much the nose knows when it comes to taste.

"When food is in your mouth, odors come from the back of the throat up to the nose," said Gary Beauchamp, director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. "Taste is very complex. It depends on smell and other factors, such as personal experience and genetic background."

While the study is particularly interesting to scientists, it also demonstrates how genes play a role in many biological processes, including the senses.

"It's a very clear example of how people live in different sensory worlds, and some of the basis of that is our genetic differences," Beauchamp said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New USDA Rule Could Prevent Thousands of Food Poisonings

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration said Tuesday it plans to order all U.S. beef, pork and poultry producers to keep their products off store shelves until government tests for pathogens prove the food is safe.

Until now, producers have been free to ship raw cuts of potentially contaminated meat and chicken to market before tests yield their results. The result has been inadvertent and preventable outbreaks of disease and costly recalls.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "Most establishments already do their own testing and holding of products," and many of the industry's largest producers, including Tyson Foods and Cargill, support the rule.

"We've had test and hold procedures in place at our plants for about ten years," said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson. "While we don't typically favor more government regulation, we believe it makes sense in this case to mandate 'test and hold' for the whole industry."

But some smaller companies have opposed the change, saying they have a limited ability to refrigerate thousands of pounds of perishable goods while they await test results.

Vilsack said the new requirement to "test and hold" would prevent up to 25,000 cases of food sickness per year. He estimated 44 major recalls could have been prevented if the policy had been in place between 2007 and 2009.

The USDA says it inspects "billions of pounds" of meat, poultry and processed eggs every year, and conducts periodic tests for dangerous bacteria at meat plants and processing sites around the country. But the agency has waited years to make the "test and hold" policy mandatory -- despite repeated requests from the American Meat Institute and other groups to impose a uniform rule.

The new USDA policy won't take effect for at least a few months while terms of the regulation are finalized.

An estimated 48 million Americans, or one in six, get sick from food poisoning every year, according to the CDC. Of those, at least 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Coming Soon: Nutrition Labels on Cuts of Meat

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nutrition labels, like those found on the backs of cereal boxes and canned goods, will soon be required on cuts of meat.

As reported by USA Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to announce the new requirements on Wednesday.  The new labels, which are set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, will list calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein and vitamins for the slabs of beef, poultry, pork and lamb that are most commonly consumed.

By implementing the labels, federal officials hope Americans will become more health conscious and selective when choosing to buy meats.´╗┐

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio