The Ministry of Health in Mainland has recently reported an illness affecting farmers who have slaughtered pig or sheep in the Sichuan Province. The illness is initially found to be related to Streptococcus suis which is a common pathogen in pigs. Human infection by the bacterium has been reported occasionally worldwide as well as locally. The infection is often related to occupational exposure through wounds while handling infected pig carcasses.
The issue has been a concern of the local community as pork is one of the main meat source in Hong Kong. As pigs diagnosed of infection in slaughterhouse would be condemned and would not enter the food chain, the chance of contracting the bacteria is extremely small. Besides, the bacteria can be killed at a temperature of 75oC or above and for the consumers, the mainstay of control lies with thorough cooking.
As a general precautionary measure, people handling raw pork are advised to observe good personal, food and environmental hygiene at all times. The following safety tips are useful:
- Do not buy obscure pork from unlicensed fresh provision shops and hawkers.
- Avoid touching raw pork directly when buying pork in the market.
- Cuts or wounds on hands should be properly covered by waterproof dressings or plastic gloves before handling raw pork.
- When handling raw pork (including fresh, chilled, frozen or thawed pork), avoid touching the face and other body parts. Thereafter, immediately wash hands thoroughly with soap or liquid cleanser.
- Surfaces, utensils and equipment that have been in contact with raw pork should be thoroughly cleansed.
- Use separate knives and chopping boards for raw foods (like uncooked pork) and ready-to-eat foods.
- Uncooked pork should be kept in well covered containers. It should be stored in the lower compartment of the refrigerator at a temperature of 4oC or below. Ready-to-eat food and cooked food should be kept in the upper compartment to prevent cross-contamination.
- Frozen pork should be stored at a temperature at or below -18oC.
- Frozen pork should be thawed in refrigerator at a temperature between 0oC and 4oC or inside a microwave oven. Thawed meat should be processed and cooked as soon as possible to reduce the chance of contamination.
- Wash the pork before cutting or mincing.
- Pork should be cooked thoroughly before consumption, the central part of the pork should be maintained at 75oC or above for at least 15 seconds.
- If there are pinkish fluid running from the cooked pork or the middle part of the pork is still red in colour, the pork should be cooked again until fully done.
- When taking hotpot, use separate sets of chopsticks and utensils to handle raw and cooked food. Also, do not place too much food on the table to prevent cross contamination.