USDA decides a little pink in pork isn't dangerous
A bit of pink in pork appears to be OK after all.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced it's lowering its cooking recommendations for pork, so that the internal temperature of the meat needs to rise to only 63 degrees C (145 F).
That's a few degrees off from the longtime standard of 71 C (160 F). But food lovers say those few degrees can make all the difference in texture and taste.
After pork hits that target internal temperature, it should be allowed to rest on the grill or out of the oven for three minutes, while its temperature rises a few more degrees, the USDA advises. That should be enough to kill any harmful bacteria, but still allow the meat to remain juicy.
Ground pork as well as beef, lamb and veal should still be cooked to 160 degrees, the agency said. Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees.
In Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency still advises that all pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 71 C (160 F).
The USDA notes that its new recommendations might allow for the pork to remain pink – a colour that home cooks have long seen as a sign that it's undercooked. But the agency says if the pork is cooked as suggested, it will be safe to eat.
It added, though, that a thermometer, not colour, is the safest way to check for "doneness."
"Appearance in meat is not a reliable indicator of safety or risk. Only by using a food thermometer can consumers determine if meat has reached a sufficient temperature to destroy pathogens of public health concern," the agency said in a statement.
Chefs and foodies from all over welcomed the news, with some saying the USDA is finally sanctioning what has long been common practice among food professionals.
"I'm glad they have the sense to make that change," Rob Weland, a chef at Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington told the Associated Press.
Weland said he has always cooked pork to the lower temperature because chefs knew it was safe and the meat tastes better. But he said it could take years for backyard grillers to adjust.
"People have been taught this for generations and it's going to take a long time to get this removed," he said.
"It will be good for the next generation not to be so fearful so they can enjoy pork in a way they may not have been able to in the past."
Chef and cookbook author Jacques Pépin told The New York Times he's glad the USDA has finally realized that lean pork gets tough and dry if overcooked. But he noted that pork belly, which is very popular right now, as well as pig's feet still needs "hours and hours" of braising.
The USDA said it made the change after several years of research and talks with producers and food safety experts. Producers proposed the change in 2008, based in part on new production methods that reduced the risk of pathogens, such as improved feed and housing methods.
With reports from the Associated Press