Most top chefs and some scientists breathed a sigh of relief when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that pink pork is safe for human consumption. For years, they have been urging the USDA body to declare that pink pork is safe in vain (Cevallos, 2011).
Previously people have viewed the pink color of pork with skepticism for they associated it with undercooking. With the recent announcement, the lovers of this rare meat do not have to worry about the pink color anymore. The color issues came about when USDA lowered the safe temperatures of cooking pork. Initially the recommended temperature was at 160F but has been lowered to 145F (Cevallos, 2011). The department advised that after raw pork is cooked at 145F it should be allowed to rest for three minutes. The three minutes rest are crucial, for the heat kill any present pathogens. They explained that the pink color, which was initially, assumed to be unsafe was mainly because of cooking method or the ingredients used, but, not because of harmful (Cevallos, 2011).
Cevallos (2011) in the article elaborates that the above cooking temperature does not apply to all these of meat but varies one type to other as shown below;
- Steak and roasts: 145 F
- Ground beef: 160F
- Egg dishes: 160 (mainly because they pose a risk to salmonella bacteria infection)
- Chicken breasts and whole poultry: 165 (as borrowed from USDA brochure)
Cevallos (2011) further point out that the temperatures stated refers to an internal temperature of the food and not the oven or grill setting. The USDA brochure advised the consumers to use a thermometer to determine whether the meet is at safe temperatures.
According to Cevallos (2011) the brochure cautions older adults, pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems against eating meats if they are not sure whether the internal temperatures has reached 165 F. The above group of people is also advised to eat the food when it is steaming hot so as to prevent contamination from Listeria bacteria. The bacteria according to statistics kill 260 people and make 1,600 people sick each year in the US.
Cevallos (2011) also adds his voice and warns that proper food handling can go a long way in preventing food poisoning. There are many harmful bacteria’s and viruses such as salmonella and E.coli which can contaminate food, which when, consumed lead to food poisoning. To avoid food poisoning cases and to promote food safety, the USDA provides safe steps, which one should, follow in food handling, cooking and storage.
The four guidelines as outlined below are useful during food preparation to prevent food contamination. First one should always ensure to maintain cleanliness in the food preparation area by washing hands and the surfaces often. Secondly, one should always separate cooked and uncooked food to avoid contamination. At the cooking stage, one should follow the recommended guideline about cooking temperatures to ensure all bacteria’s are eliminated.
Finally, any products that need refrigeration should be done so immediately (USDA). In addition, USDA provides a fact sheet on basics of handling food safety. The guidelines which ranges from shopping, storage, preparation, thawing, cooking, serving, leftover, refreezing and cold storage chart can be accessed on http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/basics_for_handling_food_safely/
How FDA regulates safety of pork products
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) works together with USDA to ensure safety of pork products. While the USDA is concerned with inspection of pork products in the stores and pork grading, the FDA is responsible for some regulation aspects of this sensitive industry (Debbie, 2010).
Firstly, FDA is responsible for regulation of pork irradiation (Debbie, 2010). This is a method that is used to kill microorganisms in meat by sending ionizing radiation though it. Irradiation is important for if used in low doses radiation stop reproduction of trichinella a common microorganism in pork (Debbie, 2010). As a rule, FDA requires all irradiated pork to be identified in the package label. It is mandatory for the package to contain irradiation label as well as words “Treated with irradiation” or “Treated by Irradiation” (Debbie, 2010).
On cloning, FDA had the authority to inspect facilities where cloning is being used for food products (Debbie, 2010). For example, in 2008 after assessing the risk of eating cloned animal products FDA released a report and declared that such products were safe for human consumption. The scientists under FDA continue to monitor cloned animals and in case of any unsafe aspect FDA will issue a report.
FDA also recognizes that resistance to antibiotic poses a serious threat to public health (Debbie, 2010). It is for this reason it requires a withdrawal period to be granted to animals which are required for slaughter (Debbie, 2010). The withdrawal period ensures that the antibiotics exit the animals system and thus no residue will be detected in the meat. On antibiotics regulation, FDA ensures all antibiotics are tested to ensure they are safe to animals, humans and the environment. It works in conjunction with U.S Food Safety and Inspection service that is responsible for inspecting animals before they enter the processing plants (Debbie, 2010).
Cevallos, M. (2011 May 25) Pork is in the pink with USDA, but don’t get carried away. Los Angeles times. Retrieved from http://www.ihsofmn.org/google/google-health/pork-is-in-the-pink-with-the-usda-but-dont-get-carried-away-los-angeles-times/
U.S Department of Agriculture. Fact Sheets: Safe food handling, Basic for Handling food. Retrieved http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/basics_for_handling_food_safely/
Debbie, M. (2010, August 11). FDA Regulations for Pig Meat. Retrieved http://www.ehow.com/list_6834294_fda-regulations-pig-meat.html