Is us pork safe to eat? (How to safely consume)
In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Is us pork safe to eat?”. We will also address the risks of pork and how to use it.
Is us pork safe to eat?
Yes, consuming properly cooked pork and pork products is considered safe in the United States. Every animal and its internal organs are carefully examined for any signs of disease.
All pork available in retail outlets undergoes inspection either by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure its wholesomeness or by state systems that maintain standards equivalent to federal regulations. The presence of the ‘Passed and Inspected by USDA’ seal guarantees that the pork is free from disease and meets safety standards. (1)
What is the nutritional content of pork meat?
Raw pork consists of 26% dry matter, with 85% of its protein content on a dry matter basis and 2% fat within the muscle. In fat tissue, it comprises 70% of total lipids.
A 4-ounce (110g) serving of raw, boneless, lean pork chop (top loin) provides around 144 kcal of energy, 25.3 g of protein, 3.86 g of fat (including 1.36 g of saturated fat), along with significant amounts of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, choline, as well as vitamins B6 and B12.
Cooking can cause changes in the nutritional profile of pork, but there are no observed alterations in the content of SFA, PUFA, or monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) when pork is cooked in the oven or on the stove. However, roasting can lead to an increase in saturated fatty acids (SFA) and a decrease in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in pork muscles. (2, 3)
What are the health benefits of pork meat?
Pork and red meats afford nutritional benefits as sources of protein and certain micronutrients. Lean cuts of pork contain quality protein that can help fulfill dietary requirements.
Particularly for those whose diets commonly lack nutrients such as iron and zinc, lean red meats may boost intake of these important micronutrients when consumed. They can also induce satiety making them a possible ally for weight management plans. (4)
What are the risks of pork meat?
Pork poses several health risks to humans, primarily due to its high cholesterol and fatty acid content, as well as the potential presence of bacteria, toxins, viruses, and parasites that can lead to various diseases and disorders. For instance, feral swine can carry more than 30 diseases and nearly 40 types of parasites, impacting both human and animal health.
Many diseases transmitted through food or water can be passed from pigs to humans. Pork products are highly susceptible to bacterial spoilage, and pigs are recognized as natural reservoirs for numerous pathogens, posing health risks to consumers.
Throughout human history, the most concerning health hazards associated with pork have been, and in certain regions of the world still are these parasitic infections.
However, contemporary discussions on pork safety in the United States often fail to acknowledge the public health significance of these pathogens and the significant reduction in the risk of foodborne parasitic diseases that have been achieved. (5, 6)
What are the common diseases in pork meat?
Taenia, Trichinella, and Toxoplasma are parasites that evolved with carnivorous transmission as an integral or necessary component of their life cycles. Their presence in meat from farmed animals is solely determined by exposures on farms, and effective prevention can be achieved through preharvest interventions.
The bacterial pathogens of most concern to pork safety, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, and Yersinia enterocolitica, have their primary ecological niche in the intestinal tracts, not the muscles of the animals. Their presence in meat stems from contamination events that can occur anytime during harvest and processing or up until meat is served on a plate. (6)
How to safely consume pork meat?
Nowadays, pork can be enjoyed with confidence when it is cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F. For both safety and quality, it’s advisable to let the cooked meat rest for a minimum of three minutes before carving or consuming it for raw pork steaks, chops, and roasts.
When preparing ground pork patties and mixtures, such as meatloaf, ensure that they are cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. For all organs and a variety of meats, including heart, kidney, liver, tongue, and chitterlings, the recommended internal temperature is also 160°F.
To safely enjoy pork, it is crucial to cook it thoroughly to eliminate any potentially harmful parasites and bacteria that might be present. Significant transformations in pork production systems in the U.S. have led to a dramatic decrease in the occurrence of foodborne parasitic diseases caused by T. solium, T. spiralis, and T. gondii. (1, 6)
In this brief guide, we answered the question “Is U.S. pork safe to eat?”. We also addressed the risks of pork and how to use it. In my studies, I was able to uncover the common risks that pork meat used to have, and how to properly consume it. In my perspective as a food scientist, the U.S. pork is very safe to eat.
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U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA Website. Washington, DC. Fresh Pork from Farm to Table. 2019.
AFÉ, OH Iko et al. Consumption and nutritional quality of grilled pork purchased from open road-side restaurants of Benin. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, v. 92, p. 103549, 2020.
PENKERT, Laura Paige et al. Pork consumption and its relationship to human nutrition and health: A scoping review. Meat and Muscle Biology, v. 5, n. 1, 2021.
WYNESS, Laura. The role of red meat in the diet: nutrition and health benefits. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, v. 75, n. 3, p. 227-232, 2016.
YARDIMCI, Mehmet. Impact of Pork Consumption on Human Health. In: International European Conference on Interdisciplinary Scientific Researches.(July), Turkey, Ankara. 2020.
DAVIES, Peter R. Intensive swine production and pork safety. Foodborne Pathogens and disease, v. 8, n. 2, p. 189-201, 2011.