Reasons Not to Eat Raw Meat

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Eating raw meat causes food-borne illness.
Eating raw meat causes food-borne illness. (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Millions of people get sick annually from undercooked meat. Measure the internal temperature of meat using a thermometer to ensure that pathogens that cause food-borne illness have been killed. Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and ground meats and pork should be cooked to 160 degrees. Beef, lamb, veal and seafood need to be cooked to 145 degrees and ham to 140 degrees. Parasites are one danger, but there are four main bacteria that cause sickness from raw or undercooked meat.

Campylobacter

The most common cause of food-borne illness from raw meats is bacteria of the genus Campylobacter. The symptoms can include fever, headaches, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Bloody diarrhea is a more serious side effect. When it passes to the bloodstream more serious complications, and even death, can occur. The symptoms will appear two to five days after consuming the raw or undercooked meat. Illness can last seven to 10 days. Even though the bacteria can be transmitted through raw or undercooked beef or shellfish, the most common source of contamination is poultry.

Salmonella

There are more than 2,300 types of bacteria in the genus Salmonella, which is present in meat and poultry. The bacteria cause salmonellosis, which can result in abdominal cramping, headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. When the infection invades the bloodstream, it causes more serious, and possibly life-threatening, infections. Symptoms from the bacteria occur between eight and 72 hours after the infected food is consumed. The infection may last four to seven days.

Escherichia Coli

Escherichia coli, or E. coli, is a harmful pathogen found in raw beef. The bacteria cause vomiting, painful cramps and diarrhea, which is bloody in its most severe form. A fever is rarely present. Symptoms show up between one and eight days after the infected food is eaten. The illness lasts between five and 10 days. Patients can develop acute kidney failure, and the bacteria may cause death. A doctor should be contacted immediately when severe symptoms are exhibited.

Parasites

Roundworms can be transferred to people from raw or undercooked meat. Common roundworms are Anisaxis simplex, found in saltwater fish, and Trichinella spiralis, found in pork. Tapeworms are other common parasites, which are commonly passed along through raw or undercooked fish, beef and pork. Symptoms for parasites range from headaches, vomiting, nausea, muscle pains and fever. Parasites can be treated by a doctor.

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