USDA: 145 degrees is safe temp for pork

May 24, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – It's safe to cook pork to only 145ºF instead of the previously recommended 160ºF, provided cooking is followed by a 3-minute "rest," the US Department of Agriculture announced today.

The announcement means the recommended cooking temperature for all whole cuts of red meat (pork, steaks, roasts, and chops) is now 145ºF, with a 3-minute stand time after cooking. The guideline does not apply to ground meats, for which the safe temperature remains 160ºF, the USDA said. The recommendation for all raw poultry products is still 165ºF.

"With a single temperature for all whole cuts of meat and uniform 3-minute stand time, we believe it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation," said Elizabeth Hagen, the USDA's under secretary for food safety. "Now there will only be 3 numbers to remember: 145 for whole meats, 160 for ground meats and 165 for all poultry."

The agency previously recommended 145ºF as the safe temperature for beef, veal, and lamb, but today's announcement adds the advice to wait 3 minutes after cooking before carving or eating those meats. During that time, the temperature stays the same or continues to rise, killing pathogens, the statement said.

"Cooking raw pork, steaks, roasts, and chops to 145°F with the addition of a three-minute rest time will result in a product that is both microbiologically safe and at its best quality," the USDA said.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has determined that it is just as safe to cook pork to 145°F with a 3-minute rest time as it is to cook it to 160°F with no rest time, the agency said. The new cooking suggestions match the standards the agency uses for cooked meat products produced in federally inspected meat establishments, which use the 3-minute stand time to reduce pathogens.

Temperatures should be measured with a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, officials said.

The agency cautioned consumers not to rely on color to tell if meat is safe, noting that consumers typically have viewed the color pink as a sign of undercooking. If raw pork is cooked to 145ºF and then allowed to stand for 3 minutes, it may still be pink but is safe to eat, the statement said, adding that the color may be due to the cooking method, added ingredients, or other factors.

The agency noted that cured pork, such as cured ham or pork chops, will remain pink after cooking.

See also:

May 24 USDA press release

Apr 5, 2006, CIDRAP News story "USDA: 165 degrees is magic number for safe poultry"

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