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The color of cooked pork doesn't determine if it's cooked enough.

Many consumers still rely on the old-fashioned and unreliable method of visually examining cooked meat to see if the internal color appears sufficiently brown, indicating that the product is thoroughly cooked. That procedure can be deceptive, as you may know, because of potential premature browning, the appearance of ground meat turning brown within a product before it's sufficiently cooked.

Foodservice and institutional operations should take note. The appearance of color can also be deceiving for whole muscle pork. In tests, some of this product appeared more pink than expected. Others appeared more well-done at lower endpoint temperatures than expected, we're told by researchers at Kansas State University (Department of Animal Science and Industry, Weber Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506).

Kansas State researchers conducted experiments to determine how cooked pork with different varieties of muscle quality would appear after being cooked to safe levels. Pork chops with normal or enhanced quality muscle that were cooked to medium doneness (160 F) appeared moderately pink to slightly pink. Only those chops cooked to the higher temperatures of doneness appeared tan, gray or white inside.

Among cooked pork samples of pale, soft and exudative (PSE) muscle quality, the chops were less pink than those of normal muscle quality. Among dark, firm and dry muscle quality pork, the chops appeared to be less well-done. The studies show that PSE pork chops are more susceptible to color variation than normal quality chops. PSE muscle occurs in 10% to 30% of all pork.

Just as pork can appear to be cooked when it really isn't, the reverse can be true also, especially with PSE pork. Slightly pink pork can be safe to consume. The dry, firm and dark (DFD) muscle quality of pork is characterized by its persistent pinking. Even a well-done DFD pork chop would still appear pink.

Further information. Melvin Hunt; phone: 785-532-1232; fax: 785-532-7059; email: hhunt@oz.oznet.ksu.
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Publication:Microbial Update International
Date:Feb 1, 2001
Previous Article:Fast tests for Campylobacter.
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