The Truth About Trichinosis in Pork

Many believe they must cook pork until it’s well-done. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), that’s not necessary. The notion that pork must be cooked well-done dates back a few generations when a pathogen called Trichinella spiralis that causes trichinosis was a problem for pig farmers and for consumers. Today, we know that Trichinella spiralis is transmitted to pigs as a result of poor feeding practices and exposure to pathogen-infected animals.

Elimination of Trichinosis

Biosecurity measures on pig farms have become very sophisticated and effective. The widespread adoption of improved feeding practices and high levels of biosecurity and hygiene have virtually eliminated the presence of trichinae in the United States. Because most pigs raised for food today are housed in barns instead of outdoors, facility workers can carefully manage barn biosecurity to help keep out disease-causing pathogens. Now that the pathogen related to trichinosis is virtually eliminated, the risk of trichinosis from U.S. pork is virtually eliminated, too.

The myth of the Trichinae parasite

Myth: You have to cook pork to well-done because pigs often carry a parasite that can lead to a condition known as trichinosis in people if they eat undercooked pork.

Fact: While there is a historical basis for caution regarding trichinosis, it’s no longer a threat that should concern U.S. pork consumers. In fact, the odds of getting trichinosis from eating pork sold at retail stores is only 1 in 154 million.1

Why? The parasite responsible for this disease has been almost completely eliminated from modern pork production, thanks to the American farmers’ adherence to strict production practices and the federal government’s ongoing monitoring programs of farms and processing facilities.

These facts, coupled with properly cooking pork to USDA’s recommended 145° F, a three-minute rest time and proper storage techniques, mean that most of the handful of cases each year are caused by eating wild game meat, not pork. So, it all means eating pork in the 21st century is safer than ever.

 

1Calculation performed by the National Pork Board based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics, 2009.