The United States is the world’s third-largest pork producer and the largest pork exporter. In 2012, U.S. pork production was about 10.4 million metric tonnes (MT), over 2.3 million MT of which was exported (ERS-USDA, 2013). Per capita pork consumption in the U.S. has been estimated to be approximately 46.2 lb per year and has been relatively steady over the past decade (National Pork Board, 2013). Since domestic pork consumption is stagnant, the leading importers of U.S. pork (Japan, Mexico, China and Canada) are critically important to profitability of the U.S. pork industry (USMEF, 2013). Food safety and regulatory issues are a major concern in both foreign and domestic markets for U.S. pork.
Bacterial pathogens are the primary cause of most serious meat safety issues. Foodborne illness can result in economic losses to producers due to recalls from the market place and loss of reputation (Sofos, 2008). Each year, foodborne disease causes an average of 9.4 million illnesses and 1351 deaths in the U.S. (Scallan et al., 2011). Cost due to illness caused by the five major foodborne pathogens (non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica, Campylobacter spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Stapylococcus aureus, Toxoplasma gondii and norovirus) has been estimated to be $12.6 billion per year (Buzby et al., 1996). Scharff (2010) reported that the U.S. spends $152 billion each year on acute medical care and long-term health-related costs that result from foodborne illnesses.