Do I really have to cook pork until it’s not pink in the middle? How much should I worry about trichinosis?

Not much. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only five Americans were diagnosed with the disease in 2004, and most of them probably got it from eating wild game. (Between 1997 and 2001, 31 reported cases were caused by wild game, while only 8 resulted from eating domestic commercial pork).

In the past, pigs were infected with trichina worms from eating raw meat scraps. Today, most eat grain-based pellet food, similar to dog chow. Organically raised pigs munch grass. It’s illegal to feed raw meat to pigs raised commercially. Hence, trichinosis has been virtually eliminated.

Pork can contain the same disease-causing bacteria as any other meats—salmonella, E. coli, and other nasties. As for how much to cook your pork, go by temperature, not color. The USDA recommends that pork be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees, though chefs like Jonathan Zearfoss, culinary arts professor at the Culinary Institute of America, advocate for less. “From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I think 145 is well past the desirable temperature,” he says. This will usually be enough to kill off E. coli and salmonella. But be warned: Since today’s pork is very lean, cooking it at a higher heat can dry it out.

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