Undercooked organic meat may carry parasite risk

Undercooked organic meat may carry parasite risk

Organic meat may carry a dangerous parasite which can transmit to people eating the products, if not cooked properly, a new study has warned.

Researchers in the US found that a food-borne illness called toxoplasmosis, which is not as well known as salmonella or E. coli outbreaks, is caused by the toxoplasma parasite mostly found in organic meats.

“The new trend in the production of free-range, organically raised meat could increase the risk of Toxoplasma gondii contamination of meat,” the authors said.

The researchers point out that eating undercooked meat — whether organic or conventionally raised — especially pork, lamb and wild game such as venison, is one of the main ways people become infected with the toxoplasma parasite.

People can also contract the infection by not washing raw fruits and vegetables, which may have come in contact with soil contaminated by cat feces, they said.

Cats, they said, can spread toxoplasmosis after eating other infected animals and then passing the parasite along in their feces.

This can contaminate not only home litter boxes, but the soil or water if a cat goes outside.

Although perhaps as many as one in five Americans carry the parasite, few people have symptoms because the immune system in healthy people does a good job of preventing T. gondii from causing illness.

Toxoplasmosis presents more of a threat to pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system, especially if they change cat litter boxes or touch contaminated soil when gardening.

In its earliest stages, the illness causes flu-like symptoms, and if severe, can cause damage to the brain, eyes and other organs.

The new research, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, reviewed the foods most likely to carry the parasite and how people can prevent becoming sickened by it.

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