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NOTE: The USDA changed the recommended cooking temperature for pork from 160 to 145 degrees.
The roundworm Trichinella spiralis is killed at about 140 degrees F (actually at 137 degrees F). Because thermometers can be inaccurate, most experts recommend cooking to 145-150 degrees F.
The wording of a CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendation from 1998 as a result of recent cases caused by cougar jerky in the southwestern US is as follows:
"Cooking is one of the most common methods of assuring that ‘Trichinella’ are destroyed; a temperature of 170 F (77 C) substantially exceeds the thermal death point and is usually achieved if the meat is cooked until it is no longer pink "
Note the wording "170 F substantially exceeds" - they are being extremely cautious. Again, the actual temperature that kills the Trichinella is about 140 degrees F.
Other facts to keep in mind.
* Trichinella is also killed when pork is frozen at minus 5 degrees F for 25 days OR to minus 22 degrees F for 25 hours.
* ORDINARY CURING AND SMOKING DOES NOT KILL TRICHINELLA!. (Trichinella also occurs in some wild game - this is what caused the problem with the cougar jerky mentioned above)
* All cases of Trichinosis must be reported to the CDC. In 1998 there were 19 incidents of Trichinosis reported in the U.S. Most recent cases are among Asian immigrants (trichinosis is almost unknown in Asia - so eating rare or even raw pork is of no concern) and many other cases are from wild game (as the cougar jerky).
* Trichinosis is not common in the US anymore, mostly due to changes in the methods of feeding of pigs over the last 30 years. (They don't feed them the raw intestines from slaughtered hogs ground up with their feed like they used to do - this was the main avenue of contamination on hog farms).
BOTTOM LINE: Use an accurate thermometer. Cook to 145 degrees F to be safe. (Using frozen pork would be even safer).
If you are very paranoid, use pork that has been frozen for a month or more in a commercial freezer, and cook to 170 degrees, then throw the dry inedible pork away and have a salad.
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