Tuesday, 12 June 2018

What are the risks of eating infected meat?

So what are the risks of eating meat infected with the diseases and parasites that the inspectors check for?


Tapeworms are segmented, ribbon-like worms that can grow to between 4.5 and 9 metres in length and live in your intestines. We can catch them by swallowing food containing traces of contaminated faeces, or by eating raw contaminated pork, beef or fish. There may be no symptoms, or stomach pains accompanied by diarrhoea and vomiting. Left untreated, complications can be more serious. 


Around a quarter of the world's population has roundworm, but infection is far more common in the developing tropical and sub-tropical world – only around 80 cases a year are reported in Britain, most contracted abroad. Roundworms can be about the size of an earthworm and infest the small intestine. Some people get a high temperature and cough, but most suffer no symptoms and only realise they are infected when they spot a worm in their faeces.

Bovine TB

Bovine tuberculosis is an infectious disease in cattle caused by Mycobacterium bovis, which is closely related to the bacterium that is the most common cause of TB in people. Like human TB, it mainly affects the airways and lungs. The bovine TB bacteria can infect humans and cause TB, with symptoms that can include fever, night sweats, persistent cough, diarrhoea, weight loss and abdominal pain. However, this is thought mainly to occur through people consuming unpasteurised milk or dairy products, or, more rarely, being close enough to infected cattle to inhale infected aerosol droplets. The Food Standards Agency has confirmed that there are no known cases of people contracting TB from eating infected meat.

Food poisoning

Faecal contamination is a leading cause of campylobacter, which is the most common bacterial cause of food poisoning, ahead of salmonella, listeria and E coli. The symptoms of food poisoning generally develop one to three days after eating contaminated food and include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, often accompanied by stomach cramps, high temperatures and chills. They usually clear within one or two days, but of the 450,000-odd cases of food poisoning reported in the UK each year, 22,000 result in hospitalisations and 110 in deaths.

Heart and liver disease, pneumonia, septicemia, peritonitis, tumours and abscesses

Meat from animals suffering from these conditions is routinely removed from the food chain (and can look extremely unappetising), but Public Health England says there is no epidemiological evidence that eating it can result in transmission of the diseases to humans.

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