The Dangers Of Eating Raw Meat

eating raw meat 3 25
 Inuit elders eating muktuk (raw whale skin and blubber). Ansgar Walk/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Rising energy and gas prices might make you think twice about firing up your stove for a roast or stew. Why cook that meat? After all, your menu could include trendy beef carpaccio, flavoursome wild boar’s liver, coppa or pancetta. If you learned to like raw meat, you might become a paleo-keto-carnivorous pilgrim, with visions of developing a ripped torso.

Humans are omnivores: we can digest raw meat and thrive. The Inuit, among others living in frozen latitudes, eat raw meat from seals, caribou, elk or whale. Uncooked cuts from horses, chickens and goats are presented as small delicacies on tables from Europe to Japan. While some bodybuilders promote raw meat and offal diets (carefully selected).

Raw meat has also been used as medicine. In the late 19th century, French doctors suggested it as a treatment for tuberculosis. It seemed successful, sometimes. But the researchers described two problems. First, obtaining clean raw meat was difficult. Second, their patients disliked their daily dose of half a pound of raw meat. Treatments were adjusted to using the meat juice instead. This “zomotherapy” was more popular and, they said, less likely to cause tapeworm infections.

Raw liver therapy for pernicious anaemia was investigated by George Minot and William Murphy. They received the Nobel prize in 1934 for this pioneering work that paved the way to isolating vitamin B12. B12 is stored in a herbivore’s liver and damaged by cooking. These early studies all showed that raw meat came with some dangers from infection and infestation.

Microbial hazards

The animals we eat share this planet with us. We are all surrounded by an amazing diversity of uncountable microbes, some of which may be shared at mealtimes. A tempting piece of raw meat, therefore, requires elaborate checking. Has it any prions, viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites?

Although many of these critters are harmless, some are quite lethal unless treated. Some, such as prion-linked brain diseases, cannot be treated. And some will treat us as their food. If that steak is venison from your recent hunt, its pathogens will be different compared to a farm-reared steer.

The bacteria Escherichia coli, for example, were thought harmless when described in 1885. Up to 50% of healthy cattle may carry E. coli 0157. These are resistant to our stomach acid; their Shiga toxins can cause kidney failure, shock and death.

Listeria is named after Joseph Lister, the father of surgical sterilisation. It is a skilled soil organism that can multiply on a steak in your fridge, then infect your bloodstream and brain, or cross a placenta resulting in miscarriage and foetal death.

Beef can be contaminated with Toxoplasmosis gondii, a protozoal parasite from cats that happily survives in cattle and humans. Toxoplasmosis tends to find its way into the brain, retina, heart muscle or cross the placenta, where it can damage the foetal brain. Some of these effects may take years to become evident; you would probably not notice anything after that raw lunch.


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Although there are no proven advantages to eating raw meat, there are great microbial hazards. (Feeding your pets raw meat has similar risks.) Not only is there a risk of being infected with Campylobacters and Salmonellas, but also parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms.

The passion – in some quarters – for returning to a habit of consuming raw meat should be checked against the facts of “one health” – that is, taking into consideration the combined health of people, animals and our environments. We are not alone. Many, many microbes, usually checked by safe food management and cooking, would just love us to take up a wolverine lifestyle.The Conversation

About The Author

Colin Michie, Deputy Lead, School of Medicine, University of Central Lancashire

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Salmonella and Food Safety

Recommended Books:

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind -- by Peter Wayne.

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind -- by Peter Wayne.Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi has a beneficial impact on the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind. Dr. Peter M. Wayne, a longtime Tai Chi teacher and a researcher at Harvard Medical School, developed and tested protocols similar to the simplified program he includes in this book, which is suited to people of all ages, and can be done in just a few minutes a day.

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Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs
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Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Wendy and Eric Brown.As part of their commitment to self-reliance and resiliency, Wendy and Eric Brown decided to spend a year incorporating wild foods as a regular part of their diet. With information on collecting, preparing, and preserving easily identifiable wild edibles found in most suburban landscapes, this unique and inspiring guide is a must-read for anyone who wants to enhance their family's food security by availing themselves of the cornucopia on their doorstep.

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Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It -- edited by Karl Weber.

Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About ItWhere has my food come from, and who has processed it? What are the giant agribusinesses and what stake do they have in maintaining the status quo of food production and consumption? How can I feed my family healthy foods affordably? Expanding on the film’s themes, the book Food, Inc. will answer those questions through a series of challenging essays by leading experts and thinkers. This book will encourage those inspired by the film to learn more about the issues, and act to change the world.

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