Parasites in Meat: How to Avoid Food Poisoning?

parasites in meat

Current scientific knowledge about foodborne parasites in meat is clear: eating raw meat is at increased risk. But specifics are often lacking.

What parasites are found in meat? Why shouldn’t you eat wild meat? How to choose and store meat correctly so as not to get poisoned? What are the dangers of eating raw or poorly processed meat?

In this article, we’ll talk about worms and the bacteria found in meat.

General Knowledge About Parasites in Meat

sliced meat

In general, raw or underprocessed meat can contain:

  • viruses;
  • bacteria;
  • fungi;
  • protozoa;
  • tapeworms and roundworms and their larvae.

Importantwild animals’ meat should not be eaten even cooked because some parasites can withstand the heat treatment.

People often get infected from a wild animal’s meat – for example, a wild boar knocked down on the road and picked up for a homemade barbecue.

Yes, it happens.

For some, bringing home the carcass of a wild animal seems like fun. However, remember that by consuming game, you are putting your health at risk, and sometimes the health of your entire family.

Parasites in Meat: Helminths

Helminths, or parasitic worms – the general name for worms that cause helminthiasis in humans and animals. Various worms and their larvae are found in meat.

Next, let’s look at the main ones.

Pork Tapeworm / Taenia Solium

Taenia solium

They cause teniasis. The worms look like tape with cysts inside. More often, the brain is affected. The cause of the disease is pork meat infected with larvae, which has not been properly processed.

Bovine Tapeworm / Taenia Saginata

Taenia Saginata

Provokes the development of teniarinchosis. Parasite eggs are found more often in beef.

Any beef meat must be examined and processed by sanitary and epidemiological services and manufacturers.

Trichinella Spiralis

Trichinella Spiralis

This round parasite causes trichinosis. A person becomes infected with trichinosis by eating undercooked meat seeded with Trichinella larvae.

It must be said that Trichinella larvae are highly resistant – when cooking pieces of meat no more than 8 cm thick, they die within 2.5 hours.

First of all, gourmets – lovers of raw minced meat, sliced ​​meat, dry-cured homemade sausages, hams, and lard – are at risk of getting infected.

They often become infected with trichinosis when eating meat from wild animals.

Trichinella helminths are mobile – they migrate through the human body in the course of their life.

Let’s take a closer look at how this happens.


Let’s say a person eats raw or uncooked meat that contains live Trichinella cysts. Once in the stomach, the cysts are digested and release the larvae. They grow up quickly and begin to mate. After all the deeds, the males die, and the fertilized females invade the intestinal walls and begin to secrete new larvae there.

The patient at the same time suffers from nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea. Further, the larvae migrate into muscle tissue. And after about a week or two, the symptoms of the second stage begin:

  • muscle pain, 
  • weakness, 
  • fever, 
  • allergic reactions, 
  • edema, and so on. 

Often there is swelling around the eyes since Trichinella worms like to settle in these muscles (and also in the muscles of the tongue and intercostals). Don’t google photos.

And if drugs for worms can kill them in the intestines, then they will not work on larvae in muscle tissue. Medical attention is required. If left untreated, inflammation can develop in other organs, including the heart and brain.

Importantif at least one Trichinella is found, all meat and internal organs of infected animals must be disposed of.

The larvae cannot be seen with the naked eye. So an inattentive hunter who was too lazy to fry the meat for more than 20 minutes may well become a new home for roundworms.

Parasites in Meat: Bacteria

Heat treatment kills worms, but what about parasites that are invisible to the eye? We know that bacteria and fungi do not necessarily mean bad. Certain bacterial and fungal fermentation products can be considered digestive aids. For example, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir.

Rotten meat also becomes so because of bacteria’s work, but one bacteria differs from another one. In this case, these are putrefactive bacteria, and many of them release toxins and poisons. Depends on the leaven, shall we say.

By the way, the processes of putrefaction in our intestines also exist, which is quite natural. They always happen when we eat protein foods of plant or animal origin.

Next, let’s briefly analyze the main bacterial parasites that can be found in meat:

E. Coli O157: H7

E. Coli O157: H7

It is also known as E. Coli, a type of rod-shaped bacteria. And it is almost the most dangerous known strain associated with human food poisoning. There are also antibiotic-resistant strains, which is not surprising given the general enthusiasm for antibiotics.



Another insidious bacterium. It normally lives in cattle in the digestive tract, but it causes fever and poisoning in humans.

There is also a reactive form – invasive salmonellosis when bacteria enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body.

Botulinum / Clostridium Botulinum

Clostridium Botulinum

This bacterium is the enemy of all lovers of vacuum packaging and pickles. As an anaerobic microorganism, it grows without air and forms spores that survive over a wide temperature range.

The body itself does not cause disease (botulism), but the toxin it produces is one of the deadliest known to humankind. It is called botulinum toxin and refers to neurotoxins – which specifically target nerve cells, usually interacting with membrane proteins.

Although not a common cause of illness, it is considered a major problem in the food industry. Botulinum can be found in the intestines of humans and animals, as well as in soil and streams. But the main source of bacteria is swollen and damaged canned food, homemade pickles. And, of course, airtight packages – airtight, low acid foods (beans, fish, meat).

Spores can survive in frozen, raw, and pre-cooked food. Since they can withstand boiling points during any food packaging process, make sure the product is heated to a core temperature of 82 ° C (180 ° F) for 20 minutes to kill any toxins.

How to Protect Yourself from Parasites in Meat?

foodborne parasites

Processing is not always warm. There is also freezing or heat treatment with cold. Such meat can no longer be called completely raw since freezing is also a method of disinfecting meat products from protozoa and helminthiases. Therefore, beef tartare exists quite calmly – the meat is cooled.

But there are important variables here: time in the freezer and processing temperature. Industrial refrigerators can deliver up to –40 ° C, and domestic ones at best up to –20 ° C. This is given that the minimum temperature for some microorganisms is only 3 ° C. What can we say about Trichinella, which can live when frozen to -27 ° C for up to 6 weeks …

But do not frantically search for parasites. Parasitophobia does not contribute to a happy life in real life.

Just follow the safety rules:

  1. Do not consume meat from unverified sources. Where does the meat on your plate come from? Can you trust this manufacturer? Meat in a store or in a large market must be tested and certified by a veterinarian.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water. Yes, a violation of hygiene conditions is one of the main causes of infections not only with meat but also with plant foods. For example, unwashed vegetables and fruits, for the cultivation of which were used compost with feces.
  3. Do not use the same knife and cutting board for processing vegetables and meat. And if you do, wash the appliances thoroughly after meat. The classic of food poisoning – when a person butchered infected meat, the parasites remained on the board and then “jumped” from the board, knife, and hands to vegetables.
  4. Pay attention to the texture of the meat. Fresh meat should be firm and slightly moist. If your meat is slimy or sticky, it may be contaminated with germs.


  1. 8 Gross Parasites and Bacteria That Could Be Hiding in Your Food
  2. Taenia Solium (pork tapeworm) and cysticercosis
  3. WHO: E. Coli
  4. Escherichia coli infections
  5. Attack of the nervous system by Clostridium perfringens Epsilon toxin
  6. Clinical Features of Clostridial Bacteremia: A Review from a Rural Area
  7. Clostridium botulinum Toxin Formation
  8. MSD: Trichinosis
  10. WHO: Botulism

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