An analysis in the January 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine revealed 69 percent of pork chops and ground pork that the organization sampled from around the U.S. tested positive for Yersinia enterocolitica, a bacteria that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can result in fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Consumer Reports also found 3-7 percent of the samples harbored salmonella, staphylococcus aureus or listeria monocytogenes, other common pathogens for foodborne illness. Twenty-three percent of the samples contained none of the tested bacteria.
Of the 198 samples, the organization found other alleged complications with the "other white meat." The sampling also claims that some of the bacteria were resistant to typical antibiotics that are used to treat foodborne illnesses, such as amoxicillin, penicillin, tetracycline and streptomycin. Of the 132 samples with Yersinia enterocolitica, 121 of those were resistant to one or more antibiotics.
"The frequent use of low-dose antibiotics in pork farming may be accelerating the growth of drug-resistant 'superbugs' that threaten human health," said Consumer Reports.
The National Pork Board responded to the report in National Hog Farmer magazine. "We believe Consumer Reports has not accurately portrayed the safety and quality of pork products," said chief executive officer Chris Novak.
"Farms are a natural environment where bacteria are present, so farmers have invested millions of dollars in research to understand how antibiotics and other tools can help us produce a healthier, safer, product for consumers," added Steve Larsen, director of pork safety.
In a separate Consumer Reports sampling, one-fifth of 240 pork products contained traces of ractopamine, a controversial veterinary drug that promotes both growth and leanness in farm animals. Ractopamine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999 for hogs, but it is banned in approximately 160 other countries - including China and the European Union.
Tested pork brands in the Consumer Report analysis include:
- Angelo Caputo's
- Bristol Farms
- El Toreo Market
- Farmer John
- Farmer John California Natural
- Food 4 Less
- Fred Meyer
- Fresh & Easy
- The Fresh Market