Worms in the body from meat – Parasites lurk in our food – what you need to know

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Only recently, a case became known in the USA in which people became seriously ill with worms after eating game meat. Which foods can also be infested with parasites, and what do you need to know?

A family from the US state of South Dakota barbecued bear meat and contracted a dangerous disease: trichinellosis. This is a worm disease that can spread throughout the entire body.

As the US Centers for Disease Control recently announced, even family members who had not eaten the meat became ill. This is because other foods were also contaminated during preparation. The authority therefore pointed out that the core of game meat must be heated to 74 degrees to kill trichinia. In addition, raw meat should always be prepared separately from other foods.

According to the Robert Koch Institute in Germany from 2001 to 2011, only a total of 63 cases were reported to the RKI. In 2006, 16 people fell ill after eating a privately kept domestic pig. According to the RKI, commercial pork is not affected.

In Austria, cases of the disease in humans are very rare: In the past 50 years, only so-called “imported” cases of trichinellosis have been registered by the health authorities in Austria. These were people who became infected with Trichinella larvae during a stay abroad or who brought infected meat products back to Austria, usually during a vacation at home, and fell ill in Austria after eating them.

Two cases were reported to the EMS in 2022

Other parasites that are transmitted through food
According to the RKI, other parasitic diseases can be transmitted via food, such as:
Toxoplasmosis: The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is widespread worldwide and can also be transmitted by consuming raw meat and meat products. In healthy people, an infection is usually asymptomatic or, at worst, flu-like symptoms occur. However, an infection can be life-threatening in people who are already ill or immunocompromised. Pregnant women, in particular, should avoid eating salami or tartare: An initial infection can lead to severe damage to the embryo.
Echinococcosis: This serious disease is caused by the fox tapeworm and can lead to tumor-like changes in the liver. The lungs and brain can also be affected. The symptoms, which may only appear months or years after infection due to the slow growth of the larvae, include abdominal pain, fatigue and jaundice. The fox tapeworm is excreted in the animal’s feces. The tapeworm eggs can, therefore, also come into contact with berries, herbs and mushrooms, vegetables and fallen fruit from the garden, as foxes are also out and about there. Therefore, always wash food thoroughly and preferably heat it. The eggs can only be killed by heating them to over 60 degrees. Pets such as dogs and cats can also become infected and should be checked regularly for worm infestation. According to the RKI, for example, almost 100 cases were reported in 2004. The institute assumes that many more cases occurred but were not reported.
Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease associated with abdominal cramps caused by the parasite cryptosporidium. It is transmitted via contaminated water or food washed with it and can also be found in meat. Infection can also occur from person to person via the fecal-oral route. Infants and people with a weakened immune system are particularly at risk, as the parasite can lead to chronic diarrhea. The parasites resist many disinfectants. Even drinking water treated with chlorine does not kill them. Only boiling the water helps. According to the RKI, between 800 and 1500 cases per year were reported between 2001 and 2013.
Nematodes (threadworms): Parasites such as nematodes can also be transmitted to humans via fish, leading to health problems such as gastrointestinal complaints. For this reason, fish from the trade are examined on light tables during processing to rule out the possibility of infested animals being sold. Anyone who fishes themselves should therefore be careful. Heating to at least 70 degrees kills nematodes, as does freezing for at least three days at minus 20 degrees.

Most illnesses are caused by poor kitchen hygiene

In addition to parasites and viruses, bacteria are particularly responsible for this. If consumers follow kitchen hygiene rules, they can protect themselves and others from foodborne illnesses caused by microorganisms in food.

Important tips on kitchen hygiene:

Food selection: Raw foods from animals are most frequently contaminated with pathogens. They can pose a risk to immunocompromised people, pregnant women and small children. Therefore, avoid foods such as raw minced meat, raw sausage, foods containing raw eggs, raw milk, raw milk cheese, raw fish and seafood such as oysters, sushi and smoked salmon, or only consume them fully cooked.
Cold chain: Bring refrigerated and frozen food home as quickly as possible and store it in the fridge and freezer. Check the expiration date.
Correct storage of food: Store food in closed containers so that neither pets nor insects come into contact with it. Store cut fruit and vegetables in the fridge. Store meat, poultry and fish separately and in closed containers in the compartment provided for this purpose (0 degree compartment).
Order of food preparation: First, prepare foods that are not heated, such as salads and raw vegetables, and then prepare raw animal foods.
Prevent cross-contamination: Raw foods such as meat should not come into contact with other foods. Never use the same kitchen utensils, such as knives and chopping boards, when handling raw and cooked food. Always wash hands and utensils well after contact with raw food.
Hygiene: Keep pets away from food and not stroke them during food preparation. Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, and avoid touching your mouth, nose and hair. If possible, do not touch food by hand but with cutlery.
Heat food correctly: Heat food sufficiently during preparation and reheating to at least 70 degrees at all points. Store leftover cooked food in the refrigerator and consume it within two to three days.

hp with reports from focus.de/picture:


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