Food, Wine & Spirits in St. Louis

Thursday, February 28, 2013 / 12:00 PM

Ask George: For once and for all, is pink pork safe to eat or not?

Q: For once and for all, is pink pork safe to eat or not? —Susie S., St. Louis

A: Well...Grandma would have said no. Pink and pork go together like gourmet food and Guy Fieri. Back in Nana's day, trichinosis (a parasitic disease) was occasionally contracted from consuming undercooked pork from ill-fed pigs. So that was the end of that: to be safe, the pork of my youth was all cooked to done, well-done.

Later, as porcine diets improved in this country, cases of trichinosis became rare, and about 20 years ago the pall was lifted and pink pork was deemed safe to eat, at least unofficially. Chefs followed suit and it was not uncommon to see a thick pork chop served with a uniformly rosy hue. That's how we did it in the 90's at Harvest restaurant, but it still it made some guests uneasy.

In 2011, the USDA officially declared that it was no longer necessary to cook meat—including pork--to well-done (160 degrees), that 145 degrees was sufficient, in effect sanctioning pink pork.

Then late last year, Consumer Reports reported a large sample of pork that contained an abnormally large amount of harmful bacteria (some of it antibiotic-resistant due to antibiotics often fed to pigs), with ground pork being especially insidious. The only safe thing to do, they concluded, was to once again cook pork to 160 degrees to ensure the bacteria was killed.

The circle is complete. What was old is new again.

My takeaway: If you like juicy pork, do some recon. Research the source. Although no guarantee of safety, responsible pig farmers generally raise healthier pigs. Or else be grandma....and cook the hell out of whatever mystery meat you end up buying.      

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Old to new | New to old
Feb 28, 2013 02:01 pm
 Posted by  Stu K.

With all due respect, eating raw port fat or pink pork meat is a trend similar to replacing the pin of a hand grenade while blindfolded.

You may be lucky and not impacted. Yes the USDA reccomended minimum cooking temperature for pork is indeed 145 degrees. Most meat temperature guides suggest that 145 is "Medium" to "Medium Well" and define the guide at 145 as cream colored, firm and yielding clear juice. If the juice is pink, you are at risk not only trichinosis, but contact bacteria from the packing house or retail purveyor. Given the outbreaks of salmonella, and their consequences I believe it is prudent to cook pork to a minimum of 150 degrees.

The uber gourmet's on the Food Channel going orgasmic over raw lardons and raw fat back are just plain stupid, and are teaching the public dangerous trends.

Feb 28, 2013 06:55 pm
 Posted by  A. Chouteau

Susie S., eh?
What us mutton lovers want to know is if eating lamb poses any possibility for acquiring scrapie.

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