Can you eat mink?
In this short article, we will be answering the query, “Can you eat mink?” along with the risks of consuming mink meat.
Can you eat mink?
Yes, it is possible to eat mink meat, although it is not recommended. Mink is a captive animal and can also be hunted in many countries for the production of fur.
However, they can carry hazardous pathogens such as T. gondii and Cryptosporidium and others that may represent a health risk by handling and consumption of its meat (1,2,3).
What are the risks of eating Mink?
The risks of eating mink meat are due to the pathogens that these animals carry. They are considered reservoirs of Toxoplama gondii, Cryptosporidium, Leishmania infantum and other pathogens.
The consumption of mink can lead to disease caused by these pathogens (1,4,5,6,7):
Toxoplama gondii: Toxoplasma gondii causes toxoplasmosis, which is usually manifested as “flu-like” symptoms (e.g., tender lymph nodes, muscle aches, etc.) that last for weeks to months. However, for immunosuppressed individuals, such as elderly and pregnants, the infections can develop into severe diseases.
Possible complications of toxoplasmosis are encephalitis, meningoencephalitis, tumor lesions and complications of the central nervous system. In the case of pregnants, it could lead to malformations of the unborn and cause miscarriage.
The disease can also manifest in the child as congenital toxoplasmosis (e.g., abnormal enlargement or smallness of the head), potential vision loss, mental disability, and seizures.
Cryptosporidium: the most common manifestation of this parasite is acute gastroenteritis, after an incubation period of 1 to 2 weeks. Symptoms are low fever, colic abdominal pain, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The individual can lose various liters of fluid per day and the symptoms can persist for 3 to 12 days or even for several weeks. Cryptosporidium infections could possibly affect other areas of the digestive tract or the respiratory tract. However, it can also be asymptomatic.
Leishmania infantum: This parasite can cause cutaneous, visceral or mucosal leishmanissis. Cutaneous manifestations are noticed by skin sores and ulcers. Visceral manifestation affects the organs and the symptoms can vary from abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and dysphagia, fever, weight loss, enlargement (swelling) of the spleen and liver, and low blood counts.
The mucosal infection of this parasite causes sores in the mucous membranes of the nose (most common location), mouth, or throat.
Who cannot eat Mink?
Individuals who are immunosuppressed should avoid eating mink and avoid any contact with this animal or any wild animal.
Pregnant, elderly, diabetics, infants, and other persons who have a weak immune system are more susceptible to having severe manifestations of diseases caused by pathogens.
Parasites act as opportunistic invaders in the organisms of persons with compromised immune systems in a way that would generally not happen in normal healthy individuals (4,5,6).
Therefore, due to the high risk of parasitic infection, immunosuppressed people should be protected from eating mink meat or having physical contact with mink.
What are the additional risks of eating mink meat?
In addition to the high risks related to the infection by parasites carried by mink, the risk of eating this animal’s meat is due to the high concentration of heavy metals present in their bodies (8).
Being a predator, minks accumulate heavy metals by ingesting other animals in the food chain, such as fish and other mammals. As a consequence, the amount of heavy metals in their meat increases.
The ingestion of heavy metals such as Mercury, Cadmium, and Lead, is related to impaired vision, olfactory disturbances and learning ability, impaired motor skills, convulsion and others.
What are the recommendations to reduce risks?
To reduce the risk of parasitic infections, you should (4,5,6):
- Cook meat to a minimum temperature of 165°F
- Avoid eating seafood
- Handle meat and food products with safety, controlling food storage temperatures and conditions, following good hygiene practices, hand washing and cleaning cooking places
- Drink only filtered or boiled water
- Avoid touching animals
- Have extra care when traveling
In this short article, we have discussed the risks of eating mink.
- Veronesi, Fabrizia, Georgiana Deak, and Anastasia Diakou. Wild Mesocarnivores as Reservoirs of Endoparasites Causing Important Zoonoses and Emerging Bridging Infections across Europe. Pathogens, 2003, 12, 178.
- Tidball, Moira M., Keith G. Tidball, and Paul Curtis. The absence of wild game and fish species from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Addressing information gaps in wild caught foods. Ecol food nutr, 2014, 53, 142-148.
- Ai, Jinxia, et al. Development of a PCR-based assay for detection of Chinese mink tissue in meat products based on the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome-b gene. Mitochondrial DNA B, 2019, 4, 2748-2750.
- Ferreira, Marcelo Simão, and Aércio Sebastião Borges. Some aspects of protozoan infections in immunocompromised patients: a review. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz, 2002, 97, 443-457.
- Parasites – Toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma infection). Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- Parasites – Leishmaniasis. Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- Parasites – Cryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”). Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Kalisinska, E., et al. Brains of Native and Alien Mesocarnivores in Biomonitoring of Toxic Metals in Europe. PLoS ONE, 2016, 11, e0159935.