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Consumer Reports: alarm about factory produced (presumably) pork safety

mcf Nov 27, 2012 11:59 AM


"Of nearly 200 pork samples tested by Consumer Reports, many tested positive for salmonella, listeria, staph bacteria. The magazine says a whopping 69 percent contained yersinia, which infects nearly 100,000 Americans every year. Children are especially vulnerable."

  1. paulj Nov 30, 2012 12:25 PM

    Is that 'nearly 100,000 Americans' a well documented number?

    According to the CDC
    "Based on data from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), which measures the burden and sources of specific diseases over time, approximately one culture-confirmed Y. enterocolitica infection per 100,000 persons occurs each year."

    With a population just over 300,000,000, that means about 3000 infections, not 100,000

    "Number of laboratory-confirmed bacterial and parasitic infections" for yersinia is 158 in 2011, or 0.34/100,000. Actual infections will be higher, since not everyone who gets the infection will get a lab test. But the most likely reason for not being tested is that the infection is minor, and the person does not see a doctor. From table 2b, the 1/100,000 is a 1996 number.

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj
      paulj Nov 30, 2012 12:45 PM

      Could it be that someone misread 'one case per 100,000' as '100,000 cases'?

    2. dave_c Nov 30, 2012 09:33 AM

      Moral of the story - No pork tartare, crudos, sashimi, carpaccio or mett.

      2 Replies
      1. re: dave_c
        mike0989 Nov 30, 2012 10:48 AM

        That's kinda how i read it as well. It looks like the biggest danger is cross contamination. Start using the same precautions you use with the "other white meat".

        1. re: dave_c
          ennuisans Nov 30, 2012 12:00 PM

          Thinking about this earlier today reminded me of Bruce Willis' character in Fast Food Nation: if you cook it through, like you're supposed to, it's not a problem. There's probably still reason to believe that something in the production chain could be improved, but in the end no matter what we do, raw meat is icky until we set it on fire.

        2. chowdom Nov 29, 2012 06:54 AM

          Folks there is an elephant in the room!!!

          1. maria lorraine Nov 28, 2012 10:08 PM

            One of the oddest comments about this came from the USDA, who said the pork was "safe"
            and that pork producers were compliant.

            This brings up the questions of what the USDA is doing to monitor the safety of pork.

            "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 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively."

            “ '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.”

            The National Pork Producers Council said the 198 infected samples of 240 total was not large enough to be a representative sampling of the national pork supply, and claimed the study was a tactic to get people to eat organic pork.

            The information above is from the ABC News broadcast yesterday and from an accompany article. You can watch the video excerpt by going to the website link, then using the down arrows to scroll down to the segment on pork.

            video: http://abcnews.go.com/wn
            article: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/11/27/study-finds-most-pork-contaminated-with-yersinia-bacteria/

            Here is the Consumer Reports study:

            7 Replies
            1. re: maria lorraine
              paulj Nov 28, 2012 11:39 PM

              cdc on yersinia. Accrording to them, this is not a common problem, and mostly comes from eating raw or undercooked pork. They also advise good sanitation when handling raw meat, and in particular
              ' After handling raw chitterlings, clean hands and fingernails scrupulously with soap and water before touching infants or their toys, bottles, or pacifiers. Someone other than the foodhandler should care for children while chitterlings are being prepared.

              1. re: paulj
                maria lorraine Nov 28, 2012 11:42 PM

                Hi, paulj,

                Were you able to find anything that's current?

                Anything more recent that shows the incidence of this bacteria?

                The CDC report is from 2005, so that data is almost eight years old,
                and I'm guessing the incidence of it -- like the increase of MRSA --
                has increased greatly in that time. If you come across it, great.

                I did a quick check and couldn't find anything. Didn't go into the
                med/sci databases though.

                1. re: maria lorraine
                  paulj Nov 29, 2012 08:41 AM


                  In this table the infection rate for yersinia in 2011, 158, is about the average for the past 15 years. The rate is well below the 2 biggies Campylobacter, Salmonella. It is even an order of magnitude below Cryptosporidium. Most of the other ones in the table have seen an increase. Yersinia has not.

                  See also table 2b, which lists lab confirmation rates, and 'Healthy People' targets. Assuming these numbers are realistic, yersinia is well under control.


                  Judging from the handling warnings in this article, and from the CDC, I suspect 'factory pork', is a rare source of infection, especially among Americans who avoid offal. Those of us who cook intestines and tongue (with attached salivary glands and possibly tonsils) might have more exposure - but more from unsafe food handling practices than from eating the cooked product.

                  1. re: paulj
                    maria lorraine Nov 29, 2012 08:45 AM

                    Dunno. Recent data is always better than old data.

                    1. re: maria lorraine
                      paulj Nov 29, 2012 09:15 AM

                      I've since edited my reply to show recent data.

                      1. re: paulj
                        maria lorraine Nov 29, 2012 09:23 AM

                        Thanks. Good job.

                        Though the pork industry doesn't test for yersina so the data does not include that large number of infections.

                        Maybe this Consumer Reports study will cause the USDA/pork industry to begin regular testing for yersinia and the new numbers will show pork as the primary source of infection for humans -- as the second medical link states it is. Or, better outcome, if regular tests happen, the infected pork will never enter the food supply.

                        1. re: maria lorraine
                          JudiAU Nov 30, 2012 11:54 AM

                          Yes, I am sure the USDA will spring into action like they always do and the federal government will reward them by supplying adequate funding and oversight powers.

                          But IF that doesn't happen I'll continue to avoid filthy factory meat.

            2. e
              ennuisans Nov 27, 2012 03:25 PM

              So I should skip the pork with rice and stick with the bagged spinach salad.

              10 Replies
              1. re: ennuisans
                chowdom Nov 27, 2012 03:42 PM

                Um no...
                this is my sisters friend

                1. re: chowdom
                  ennuisans Nov 27, 2012 04:02 PM

                  Thank you, this is excellent.

                2. re: ennuisans
                  mcf Nov 27, 2012 05:11 PM

                  No, you should skip the factory farmed pork and buy it from a reliable, preferably local as possible producer. Or one that's not strictly local, but who adheres to humane and healthy for all (animals, people, environment) agricultural practices.

                  1. re: mcf
                    scubadoo97 Nov 27, 2012 05:35 PM

                    Hard to find in my neck of the woods

                    1. re: scubadoo97
                      mcf Nov 27, 2012 05:44 PM

                      There are ways to buy online, but spendy, to be sure.

                      1. re: scubadoo97
                        rockandroller1 Nov 29, 2012 05:03 AM

                        Where, generally?

                        1. re: rockandroller1
                          mcf Nov 29, 2012 07:34 AM

                          Heritage Foods is one outlet, but there are quite a few other producers if you search out heritage pork and include "pastured" or other terms used for animals raised without antibiotics, crowding into dirty and inhumane conditions, and even small, local slaughtering that doesn't mix with feedlot animals.

                          1. re: mcf
                            paulj Nov 29, 2012 08:40 AM

                            Did CR test non-factory processed pork?

                            1. re: paulj
                              mcf Nov 29, 2012 09:04 AM

                              Nope. They tested supermarket pork. Pastured, non antibiotic treated critters not crowded together in filth tend to be much lower in the quantities and types of pathogens factory farming produces, though one wants to be careful about knowing how and where they're slaughtered, not just raised. Contaimination can happen there, too. http://www.eatwild.com/foodsafety.html

                              1. re: paulj
                                JudiAU Nov 30, 2012 11:54 AM

                                They tasted mostly processed pork but a few samples were from boutique stores i.e. antibiotic free like Whole Foods.

                    2. j
                      JudiAU Nov 27, 2012 03:20 PM

                      Gross gross gross. And I've never even heard of yersinia, a new plague of the day.

                      1. chowdom Nov 27, 2012 03:13 PM

                        Seriously this shit has to stop... Candy and antibiotic eating cows , poison pork, corn that is no longer classified as a food but as an insecticide, turkeys that have little to no dark meat on them but giant genetically modified breasts...we are killing ourselves!!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chowdom
                          wincountrygirl Nov 27, 2012 03:13 PM


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