Raw ground pork and pork chops were tested by Consumer Reports. Their analysis of pork found very high rates of the bacterium Yersinia enterocolitica. This bacteria can be dangerous, particularly to children, and can cause fever with other G.I. upset such as diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Currently the USDA's inspectors spot test for a limited number of pathogens and Y. enterocolitica isn't even one of them. They also found bacterial contamination in approximately two-thirds of the 198 pork samples they tested! Equally concerning, and perhaps MORE concerning, the Consumer Reports analysis revealed that those bacteria were also resistant to antibiotics. (See chart below)

Along with this startlingly and scary discovery, they found in one-fifth of the samples low levels of ractopamine, which is banned in China, Taiwan, and Europe for safety reasons. Ractopamine has played a big part in the recent trade controversies with these countries since they ask that U.S. meat imports to be pigs not fed ractopamine. According to Consumer Reports, "The European Food Safety Authority, which advises the European Union on food policy, concluded that it couldn’t establish a safe level for ractopamine in food after reviewing the only study of its effect on humans (involving just six men). But it noted that drugs like ractopamine can cause restlessness, anxiety, a fast heart rate, and other conditions." FDA documents show that it increases the risk of injury and lameness in pigs.This drug is routinely used as a growth promoter and is approved for use in the USA. Consumer Reports believes that the discovery of ractopamine is a concern and they stated, "No drugs, including ractopamine and antibiotics, should be fed routinely to healthy animals for growth promotion and to prevent disease." 

Sample Results:


Number Tested

Number Contaminated & resistant to one or more antibiotics




Staphylococcus aureus









Yersinia enterocolitica



One sample was found to contain MRSA. Ground pork was more likely to contain bacteria than pork chops. 

Growth Promoters:

It is no secret that approximately 80% of ALL antibiotics sold in the USA are for animals as growth promoters, not to treat infections. It is also not a secret that this practice is accelerating the proliferation of drug resistant superbugs.

When I was growing up trichinosis (a parasite) was the main risk factor with eating pork. That risk is now apparently not an issue and has been reduced by changing some industry practices and some additional legislation. Hopefully, the attention given this study will bring about more changes.

What can you do?

Aside from cutting out pork altogether, and I know that becomes even more difficult for you rib lovers in the summer time, there are things you can do to reduce your risks of consuming contaminated meat. As with any raw meat, but particularly with pork, wash your hands at least long enough to sing happy birthday to yourself at once. Use separate cutting boards for meat and wash them thoroughly with soap and water or clean them in the dishwasher. Use a meat thermometer to assure the pork is done with an internal temperature of 145 degrees and 160 degrees for ground pork. These temperatures should kill any harmful bacteria. 

Buy "certified organic" whenever possible, or buy locally from a farmer you know uses good practices and no antibiotics. Other signs to look for include "Animal Welfare Approved" or "Certified Humane". If you see, and we have often, the terms "Natural" or "No Hormones Used" labels, know that these are meaningless and misleading terms since we know that "natural" has nothing to do with whether the animal received antibiotics and/or was raised humanely. Hormones are not an issue since they are barred in any pork production.

You can also feel safer purchasing your pork from some food companies who say they don't sell any meat from pigs raised with ractopamine, such as Niman Ranch, Whole Foods and Chipotle. And by the way, Trader Joe’s does sell meat given antibiotics, even though a lot of their employees didn’t know that. See here: http://notinmyfood.org/posts/3617-trader-joes-employees-offer-misleading-claims-about-their-meat. There are two websites where you can find additional information as to restaurants in your particular area who use pork without these additives. And finally, Consumer Reports' own website devoted to food safety - notinmyfood.org.

You can find the original report here: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2013/01/what-s-in-that-pork/index.htm

Do you eat pork? Will knowing this change that in any way?

Thanks for listening!