The National Pork Board is on a quest to lower the current recommended end-point cooking temperature for pork from the current 160 degrees F. They contend a lower end-point temperature will improve the flavor and texture of cooked pork products.

According to Steve Larsen, director of pork safety for the National Pork Board, work is underway to present a case for lowering the temperature to the Food Safety and Inspection Service. "We've conducted an initial retail study and risk assessment, and the science of safety is definitely there to support the lowering," Larsen said.

Using third party microbiological labs, the NPB sampled four to six retail stores in four geographic areas to get an incidence rate of salmonella spp. on four different pork products, including enhanced and unenhanced pork chops and enhanced and unenhanced pork roast. Results showed a 0.7 percent incidence of confirmed salmonella spp. on pork products tested.

"This research indicates that the product is not contaminated through the packer and the retailer," Larsen noted. Findings from the retail study will be used in the risk assessment needed for the National Pork Board's proposal to lower the end point cooking temperature, which will likely be presented to FSIS in 2008.