November 27, 2012
Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We are writing to inform you of new findings on pathogens in pork products appearing in the January 2013 issue of Consumer Reports, released today, and to request that the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Information Service (USDA/FSIS) take action to limit Yersinia enterocolitica contamination in pork. Specifically, we request that USDA/FSIS consider setting a performance standard for Y. enterocolitica in pork and requiring companies to include it in their Pathogen Reduction Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Point (PR/HACCP) plans. We urge USDA/FSIS to test Y. enterocolitica in the next Nationwide Market Hog Microbiological Baseline Survey (MHBS), to determine its prevalence, preliminary to setting a performance standard for Y. enterocolitica.
Consumer Reports tested some 198 pork chop and ground-pork samples, purchased at retail from six U.S. cities, for four pathogens: Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and Y. enterocolitica; and for one indicator organism, Enterococcus. More than two-thirds of these samples — 69% — tested positive for Y. enterocolitica.(1) As you know,Y. enterocolitica is a pathogen that causes an estimated 97,000 illnesses, called yersiniosis, annually, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and particularly affects children.(2) The large majority of these illnesses are associated with pork, particularly raw or undercooked pork.(3) Both the ground pork (74%) and pork chops (68%) we tested were contaminated with Y. enterocolitica.
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