Should Consumers Be Concerned About Yersinia in Pork?

The pathogen Yersinia enterocolitica is one of the top pathogens responsible for foodborne illness in the United States, and pork is a major carrier.

  • Roast pork
    Yersinia enterocolitica causes fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, usually lasting one to three weeks.
    Photo By Fotolia/Studio Gi

  • Roast pork

Reposted with permission from Food Safety News 

When Consumer Reports released the results of a study last week that found most pork was contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica, the media and bloggers were abuzz with headlines like: “Almost 70 Percent of Pork In Stores Unsafe” (Forbes), “Widespread bacteria and drugs found in US pork samples” (Fox News), and “Consumer Reports analysis of US pork finds majority contaminated” (Los Angeles Times).

Here at Food Safety News, we also reported on the study. The group’s testing of 198 pork samples, 148 of which were pork chops and 50 of which were ground pork, found relatively low levels of contamination for the bugs that regularly make headlines, like Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, but a whopping 69 percent of these samples were positive for Yersinia enterocolitica, which can also make people sick.

Reactions to the report were all over the board. As we noted, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) called the results “simply terrifying,” The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the study showed that pork is safe to eat and reminded consumers to cook it properly, and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) rebuffed the study as “junk science” that was “designed to scare consumers into purchasing only organic pork.”

It turns out there is a lot of confusion about Yersinia enterocolitica. Because it’s not one of the top pathogens responsible for foodborne illness in the United States, food safety advocates and researchers don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it.

Based on a small number of reported cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 cases of yersiniosis (Yersinia infection) in the U.S. each year. According to CDC, the bug can cause fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, usually lasting one to three weeks.

10/29/2013 5:19:44 AM

Oh yea, Blame the poor porker. They don't bother to mention that this is also found in cattle,deer and birds. You would think than even Fox News people would know this.

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