Pink pork is officially declared safe to eat by US food authority

Big-time chefs are wagging their virtual fingers in a chorus of 'I told you so,' and 'finally!' after the US food safety authority announced that pink pork is safe to eat.

On Tuesday, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) revised their cooking recommendations for meat, lowering the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160 F (71 C)  to 145 F (63 C) .

In North America, the new guidelines throw a wrench in people's longstanding beliefs in pork doneness. Many a pork dish has been sent back to restaurant - and home - kitchens for bearing blushing pink flesh on the understanding that the meat could carry salmonella and food poisoning, as points out the USDA.

"Historically, consumers have viewed the color pink in pork to be a sign of undercooked meat. If raw pork is cooked to 145 °F (63 C) and allowed to rest for three minutes, it may still be pink but is safe to eat. The pink color can be due to the cooking method, added ingredients, or other factors," the agency said in an issued statement.

They also recommend allowing the meat to rest for three minutes after the internal temperature meets 145 F. This stage is important, says the USDA, as it's at this time that the residual, carryover heat will destroy pathogens.

Reaction to the news was swift on Twitter, with celebrity TV chefs like Alton Brown, Tom Colicchio and Chris Cosentino applauding the move.

"Finally, the government does something I completely and totally agree with," tweeted Twitter newcomer Alton Brown.

"USDA confirms what chefs have been saying for years Pink Pork is Safe," wrote Tom Colicchio.

Added Chris Cosentino, a chef whose MO is all about meat and offal bits  - the parts of a butchered animal that traditionally seemed inedible: "Finally the truth."

In addition to clarifying temperatures for pork, the announcement is also meant to simplify cooking guidelines for consumers. The 145 F (63 C) temperature applies to all whole cuts of meat, except for ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork. The temperature for all poultry products, including ground chicken and turkey, remains at 165 F.  A uniform three-minute rest period is also being recommended for all whole cut meats.

"We believe it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation," said Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen in a statement. "Now there will only be 3 numbers to remember: 145 F (63 C) for whole meats, 160 F (71 C) for ground meats and 165 F  (74 C) for all poultry."

To measure the temperature accurately, place the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat avoiding contact with bone, fat, or gristle. In a whole roast chicken, for example, the thermometer can be inserted between the leg and the breast.

The new cooking suggestions reflect the same standards the agency uses in federally inspected meat establishments, which also rely on a three-minute rest time to achieve safe pathogen reduction.

The agency also reminds consumers that appearance is not a reliable indicator of safety and that only a food thermometer can offer accurate results.

For more information, the USDA has created a virtual food safety representative, "Ask Karen," who can field questions via the web and mobile phones: AskKaren.gov or m.AskKaren.gov.

Here's a recap of cooking temperature recommendations for:

Whole meats, including pork: 145 F or 63 C and a three-minute rest time

Ground meats: 160 F  or 71 C

All poultry products: 165 F or 74 C

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/NR_052411_01/index.asp

 

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