I always knew that you had to be careful when cooking pork. Like most raw meats it's important to follow certain food safety standards in your own kitchen to avoid food contamination and harmful bacteria. This includes washing your hands frequently, using separate cutting boards for meat, and cooking pork chops to a certain temperature.
A recent Consumer Reports investigation on ground pork and pork chops, though, was a real stomach turner. Turns out even with safe ways to cook pork, the pork you feed your family may not be safe and could still put you at risk of food poisoning.
Consumer Reports tested 148 samples of meat from pork chops and 50 from ground pork. The pork samples came from many major and store brands, and despite the pork's origin, here was one shocking finding: ground pork was more likely than pork chops to harbor harmful bacteria, such as salmonella and listeria. Many of the samples also include drug-resistant bacteria.
It seems that a big part of this problem with ground pork has to do with the antibiotics that pigs are given to promote growth. Like humans who take too many antibiotics and end up creating a problem with drug-resistant strains, the same is happening with meat, and more of these harmful bacteria—which antibiotics should treat—end up present in meat.
In addition to practicing good kitchen hygiene and food safety with how you make pork, Consumer Reports also offers these tips:
- Choose pork and other meat products that were raised without drugs such as those labeled "certified organic," which means the animal was raised without antibiotics
- Look for animal welfare labels, such as Animal Welfare Approved or Certified Humane, on ground pork and pork chops. These prohibit the use of antibiotics except for disease treatment only.
- Look for a clear statement regarding antibiotic use. "No antibiotics used" claims with a USDA Process Verified shield are more reliable than those without certification.
- Do not go by the "Natural" label. "Natural" has nothing to do with antibiotic use or how an animal was raised.
- Recognize that "No hormones added" claims are true but hormones are not allowed in any pork production, and hormones have nothing to do with the antibiotics that can create the harmful bacteria that was found in ground pork.