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Organic Meat and the Increased Risk of Parasites

Updated on June 9, 2012
Free-ranged chicken meat may seem more ethical to eat, but is it worth the risks?
Free-ranged chicken meat may seem more ethical to eat, but is it worth the risks?

Consumers have been eagerly buying up organic meat in hopes of limiting the hormones and antibiotics that are often injected into animals before slaughter. This meat is often considered healthier than traditional meat by proponents of the organic foods movement. However, according to recent study that appeared in a May 2012 issue of, "Clinical Infectious Diseases," reported that organic meat may be more likely to carry dangerous parasites that are responsible for the food-borne illness, toxoplasmosis. Although this news may strike some as frightening, there are several things you can do to safeguard yourself and your family against such an ailment.

What is Toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis causes more deaths annually than any other food-borne illness according to the Centers for Disease Control. As many as 60 million people in the United States carry the toxoplasma parasite but fortunately very few actually become symptomatic for the deadly disease.

However, pregnant women and people with a compromised immune system should be particularly cautious with foods, such as organic meats, that may carry a new toxoplasma parasite, as these populations are at the highest risk of developing toxoplasmosis.

Preventing an Infection

The report on organic meat claims that raw hamburger, unpasteurized goat's milk, smoke or raw shellfish and rare lamb were among the meats with the highest parasite count. Eliminating these items from your diet and opting for pasteurized or cooked options may help limit your risk.

However, the best thing you can do is cook your food thoroughly. Whole cuts of meat, like steak, should be cooked to an interior temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.Ground meats should be cooked to at least 160 degrees. This is particularly important to remember when barbequing as the outside often looks cooked way before the inside hits the proper temperature. All poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees to kill off any potentially harmful parasites.

To take an accurate temperature of your meat, place a thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. Do not allow the thermometer to touch the bones as this is often hotter than the surrounding meat. If you do not have a food thermometer I assure you, it is worth the $2 investment.

Find an awesome organic recipe.

Symptoms of a Toxoplasmosis

In the average healthy person, this parasite may cause flu-like symptoms. You may experience tender lymph nodes and muscle aches but the condition typically passes without much notice. The parasite then lies dormant in your system. If your immune system is ever compromised it may become active again causing more severe symptoms.

If a pregnant woman contracts toxoplasmosis she may pass the condition to her unborn child. This can result in miscarriage, stillbirth or a child that later develops mental disabilities, seizures and vision problems.

People with lowered immune responses are most likely to develop serious complications such as fever, confusion and poor coordination.


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    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      This is good to know I had considered raising my own chickens to avoid the additives but, I don't want to kill any one off! I would seem they would be healthier but, I guess perhaps not? Shared!