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 today 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
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 4 percent and 3 percent,
“The results were concerning,” Urvashi Rangan, one of the authors of
the report, told ABCNews.com. “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.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the findings “affirm that
companies are meeting the established guidelines for protecting the
“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.
(ABC News' Dr. Anita Chu contributed reporting.)
Copyright 2012 by ABC News