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Consumer Reports analysis of U.S. pork finds majority contaminated

November 27, 2012|By Jon Bardin | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
  • An analysis by Consumer Reports found that most store-bought pork tested contained a bacterium that causes food poisoning. What's more, the samples were often resistant to antibiotics, the magazine said.
An analysis by Consumer Reports found that most store-bought pork tested… (Sean Gallup / Getty Images )

A Consumer Reports analysis of American pork purchased in grocery and specialty stores has found that many samples contained high levels of a bacterium that causes food poisoning. More worrisome, much of the bacteria samples were resistant to antibiotics.

According to the report, the magazine tested 148 samples of pork chops and 50 samples of ground pork for harmful bacteria from a wide range of stores in six American cities. (The stores are listed in the report, which can be found on the Consumer Reports website.)

The bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica was found in 69% of samples. While Y. enterocolitica is less famous than contaminants such as salmonella and E. coli, it sickens about 100,000 Americans a year, many of whom are children.

The magazine found that ground pork was more likely than pork chops to harbor the bacterium.

Most troubling is that Consumer Reports says the majority of the bacteria samples it discovered were resistant to at least one of the medically prescribed antibiotics it tested in the lab. That’s probably because many farm animals are routinely fed antibiotics, a practice the industry uses to keep animals healthy but is widely criticized among public health professionals because of the potential for resistant strains of bacteria to arise.

According to the magazine, there are a few things consumers can do to avoid Y. enterocolitica in pork. The first is to ensure that all meat is properly cooked — in the case of pork, to 145 degrees for whole pieces of meat and 160 degrees for ground pork. In addition, consumers can check the meat for a USDA label reading “No antibiotics used.”

[For the Record, 10:22 a.m. PST Nov. 30: An earlier version of this online post said the report did not name the stores where the pork was purchased. Actually, the report does name the stores.]

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