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Alaska Beat

Pork Network columnist roasts Alaska newspaper for trichinosis bias

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published November 2, 2012

Pork magazine columnist and veteran food-industry journalist Dan Murphy took umbrage after reading in the Alaska press a report of a man stricken with severe illness after eating undercooked bear meat.

The man, 32-year-old Sean Sullivan, shot a black bear that was breaking into his Nikiski cabin, butchered it, then cooked it "something a little more than medium rare." Which wasn't enough, apparently. Six weeks later, Sullivan showed signs of severe trichinosis infection, the result of larvae present in the bear meat. The symptoms reportedly got so bad that Sullivan began hallucinating about snowmachine repair.

Murphy sympathizes with Sullivan, but he ends with strong criticism for the newspaper that first reported the man's story.

Murphy's beef begins when the reporter seems to "interpret" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on the prevalence (rather, extreme rarity) of trichinosis cases in the U.S., and the supposed role of pork industry sanitation in the decline.

That was enough for Murphy, who tucks into the meat of his screed thusly:

No -- the drop is decidedly not due to "better sanitary practices in the pork industry." It is due to a complete and total reinvention of pork production, with biosecurity, professional veterinary care and scientific nutrition and management implemented virtually everywhere across the industry.

Before closing with a suggestion that Sullivan invest in a meat thermometer, Murphy says:

But referencing "better sanitary practices in the pork industry" is just wrong. It sends the wrong message, like the industry still has a ways to go in "cleaning up" the trichinosis problem, and it falsely reinforces to yet another generation of consumers that pork needs to be overcooked to the somewhere north of the consistency of well-tanned leather.

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