By January 2008, the National Pork Board expects to provide supportive scientific evidence to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to lower pork’s recommended cooking temperature from its current 160 degrees F.

In cooking pork “to a lesser degree of doneness,” pork chops will be better able to compete with steaks in the marketplace in proving extra juiciness, flavor and texture that consumers crave, says Steve Larsen, director of Pork Safety for the Pork Board.

A year and a half ago, a risk assessment company was hired by the Pork Board to conduct research on an appropriate endpoint cooking temperature for pork products.

An initial retail study was conducted in Dallas, Green Bay, Phoenix and San Antonio to get an incidence rate for salmonella on pork chops and pork roasts. Results showed 0.7% incidence of salmonella.

“This research indicates that the product is not contaminated through the packer and the retailer,” says Larsen, “and the science of safety is definitely there to support the lowering.”

Pork has had a long history of providing safe food products for the retail sector, he points out.

“We are going to let science determine what the lowered temperature is that will be requested of FSIS,” Larsen explains.

Larsen envisions a year from now consumers will be able to enjoy more tasty pork entrees and add convenience to the cooking experience.