Penn State University
I admit it…I am a food safety fanatic. Some of my family members and friends give me a hard time about my fanaticism. They tease me about my use of thermometers when cooking or grilling meat (especially at tailgates), cooling hot foods quickly in ice baths, frequent handwashing, or that I constantly wipe down surfaces with antimicrobial wipes or sprays to
prevent cross contamination.
Why am I passionate about food safety? Because, I have seen how devastating a foodborne illness can be--not only for the individual who is affected by the illness, but also for the family, especially when a loved one passes away. This aspect is even more compelling when one considers that that foodborne illness is preventable, yet requires a farm-to-fork approach to be effective. So, how does one implement food safety in pork from farm-to-fork?
First, understanding how microorganisms make their way into
the live animal and development of control measures on the farm is critical to reducing the pathogen load in pork products. That’s why pre-harvest food safety measures are so important. Working with veterinarians to improve swine health, as well as implementing a pork quality assurance program and other on-farm measures, are known to reduce pathogen prevalence in live pigs.
At slaughter, post-harvest food safety measures require processors to: follow regulatory requirements, institute proper dressing procedures, apply antimicrobial interventions, instill good manufacturing practices throughout the plant, and develop and implement comprehensive HACCP and sanitation plans. In ready-to-eat (RTE) pork operations, it’s important to cook pork thoroughly, cool cooked products quickly, and prevent contamination of cooked products with Listeria monocytogenes before packaging.
At the food service, retail, and institutional level, food handlers must be vigilant and practice the basic tenants of food safety: keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot, prevent cross contamination, maintain cleanliness in work areas, wash hands frequently, and cook pork products to the proper internal temperatures using a calibrated meat thermometer.
While farmers, processors, and food handlers are instrumental in preventing foodborne illnesses in pork products, consumers also have a role to play. Following the above-mentioned tenants is essential to ensuring the safety, quality, and maximizing the shelf life of fresh, further processed, and RTE pork products.
The Pork Safety domain seeks to provide processors, food handlers, and consumers with easy-to-use food safety factsheets and videos. The ultimate goal is to provide
information to ensure a safe and wholesome pork product that everyone can enjoy. Remember, food safety is in everyone’s hands!