Health Watch -- Make Mine Well Done

Health Watch is a Public Service of the   Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

When it comes to pork, well-done is the safest way to order.

Whether you're barbecuing ribs in the back yard or ordering pork chops at your favorite restaurant, pork that's not cooked to the point it's well-done could put you at risk of infection and illness. Food and nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that pork not cooked to an internal temperature of at least 155 degrees Fahrenheit is underdone and could still harbor disease-causing parasites.

Undercooked pork can result in an illness called trichinosis. This illness causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, muscle soreness, and pain and swelling around the eyes. Dr. Vickie Vaclavik, a UT Southwestern nutritionist, says it's a bad idea to eat any meat that's still red around the bone.

Another kind of meat that's best eaten cooked well-done is ground beef. Undercooked ground beef has been known to spread the E. coli bacteria that can cause serious illness or even death.

In fact, each year nearly 76 million people in the United States suffer from food-borne illnesses. More than 5,000 people every year die from these illnesses.

To protect yourself and your family from food-borne illness, invest in a meat thermometer that will tell you if your meat is thoroughly cooked. Hamburgers should be cooked until juices run clear and there's no pink left in the middle.