Safe Pork Temperatures Lowered to 145ºF — But Not For All Fresh Pork?

Yesterday USDA FSIS announced that the new recommended safe minimum internal temperature for fresh, whole-muscle pork is now 145ºF, down 15ºF from the previously recommended 160ºF.  The 145ºF recommendation also includes a 3 minute rest period because meat will continue to cook, and the temperature will continue to rise (albeit slightly) after it is removed from the heat source.  In reading the announcement, I noted the mention that it would now be easier to remember only three internal end-point safe temperatures:

  • 145ºF for whole-muscle pork, beef, lamb, veal
  • 160ºF for ground pork, beef, lamb, veal (Note: this should probably also include tenderized/enhanced product)
  • 165ºF for all poultry
Yet, some confusion may still linger.  It is important to recognize that it is not difficult to find “enhanced” (added water, salt, phosphate, etc.) fresh pork in the meat case at the grocery store.  You will know it is “enhanced” because the label will say that up to X% of 1-2-3 solution has been added.  This is a safety concern because needles are often used to inject products, and what was on the outside of the meat (a whole boneless loin, for example) can be translocated into lean and ultimately end up in the retail product (whether it be a chop, roast, etc.).  This is also true of blade tenderized fresh pork, though knowing whether or not something has been blade tenderized can be trickier to figure out, but sometimes you can see the small pinholes created by the mechanical tenderizer.
The best food safety practice for cooking “enhanced” or mechanically tenderized fresh pork to at least 160ºF – treat it like ground pork.  Remember the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 2009 associated with undercooked blade tenderized beef?  Like beef, E. coli can be found in fresh pork.  Ditto that for Salmonella.
From what I have read so far about the reduced temperature requirement, no one has mentioned the enhancement or blade tenderization point.
There is a notable irony here.  One of the reasons that the process of “enhancement” of fresh pork was developed is that people have a tendency to overcook it and, because pork has become leaner, there is less marbling to sustain perceived juiciness at higher end point temperatures.  Also, “enhancement” means that a little bit of water can be added to the meat, which has various economic impacts.  And now that FSIS is recommending a lower end point temperature, it is ironic that the enhanced pork should still probably be cooked to 160ºF.

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8 thoughts on “Safe Pork Temperatures Lowered to 145ºF — But Not For All Fresh Pork?

  1. Ironic that they “lower” the temperature recommendations, yet leave them for “enhanced” products. Most consumers are not looking at whether the product has been “modified” with added fluids, etc. They are looking at price/pound and can they afford the item they want to purchase. Although I agree with the temperature changes, I wonder how many of the consuming public knows enough to be wary of the product they have purchased.

    • I have not seen any indication that the lowered minimum safe temperature recommendation does not include enhanced pork. To my knowledge, there have been only a handful of outbreaks associated with blade-tenderized beef that was prepared as if it was a “whole muscle” cut. Examples include a tenderized “sirloin tip” from a major restaurant chain here in Pennsylvania and tenderized beef from a value-added fresh meat processor in Oklahoma. You’re price-point clarification is spot-on.

  2. Funny you should bring up Oklahoma as I am an Animal Science Graduate from there with my Graduate work done in Swine Nutrition. Remember when we all were so nervous with “under cooked” pork? My father was a veterinarian and would freak out unless the pork was like leather. Oh the advances that have been made.

  3. For those of us using Sous Vide cooking techniques, these temperatures are way too high. With longer cook times at lower temperatures, you should be able to achieve six sigma reductions in E. Coli and Salmonella consistent with pasteurization. Of course the USDA has been slow evaluate/validate Sous Vide techniques.

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