Can you eat raw meat?
In this short article, we will answer the question, “Can you eat raw meat?”. We will also elaborate on the consequences which you can face by eating raw meat, what are their signs and symptoms, and how you can safely use raw meat.
Can you eat raw meat?
Yes, you can eat raw meat. It is a much popular practice in many of the cuisines around the world to eat raw meat. While this is a common practice, some safety measures should be adopted.
Diseases or risks associated with raw meat
By eating raw meat, the consequence that you may experience is a foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning.
When food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or toxins is eaten, it can lead to food poisoning. This contamination occurs during slaughtering if the animal is accidentally bruised which then spreads potentially harmful pathogens to meat.
Some common foodborne pathogens present in raw meat are Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium perfringens and Campylobacter.
Salmonella spp. live in the intestines of most livestock and many wild animals and are the leading bacterial causes of food-borne illness in the US. Salmonella spp. infection usually occurs when a person eats food contaminated with the feces of animals or humans carrying the bacteria (1).
Escherichia coli comprise a large and diverse group of bacteria. Most strains of E. coli are harmless; other strains have acquired characteristics, such as the production of toxins, which make them pathogenic to humans. Transmission of Escherichia coli occurs when food or water that is contaminated with feces of infected humans or animals is consumed. Contamination of animal products often occurs during the slaughter and processing of animals (1).
Listeria monocytogenes is one of the leading causes of death from food-borne pathogens especially in pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and immuno-compromised individuals. Infections in pregnant women can be devastating to the fetus, resulting in miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects (1).
Clostridium perfringens are estimated to be the second most common bacterial causes of foodborne illness in the US. Foodborne illness almost always is a result of temperature abuse, and in many instances, the food vehicle has been improperly cooked meat or meat product that has been left to cook and/or cool too slowly or has undergone insufficient reheating, allowing surviving spores to germinate leading to vegetative cell proliferation. After ingestion and an incubation period of 7–30 h, symptoms typically include cramping and abdominal pain, although nausea and vomiting may also ensue, persisting for 24–48 h (1).
Campylobacter jejuni can colonize the intestines of both mammals and birds, and transmission to humans occurs via contaminated food products. It invades the epithelial layer by first attaching to epithelial cells, then penetrating through them. Diarrhea results from damage to the epithelial cells (1).
The most commonly considered indications of foodborne illness include nausea, abdominal cramping, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and headache. These symptoms most commonly occur within 24 hours and after this lasts up to 7 days.
In general, properly cooking meat destroys a large portion of harmful pathogens. While pathogens still live in raw meat. Eating raw meat greatly increases the risk of producing an illness related to foodborne diseases, and you should be aware of these illnesses.
Eating raw meats such as seafood, shellfish, poultry, or eggs could lead to a higher risk of gastrointestinal diseases.
The high-risk individuals are children, nursing women, pregnant and older adults. So, they should avoid the consumption of raw meat.
Meanwhile, these raw meat dishes can also be cooked at home, when properly sourced. For instance, fresh fish can be bought from a local shop that ensures proper food safety procedures or a high-quality cut of meat can be bought from a local butcher which is then cooked well. This can help significantly in preventing contamination and in turn foodborne disease.
Cooked meat vs. raw meat
Raw meat is better than cooked meat regarding nutritional value and health. Some anthropologists devised the idea that the practice of cooking food breaks down proteins and makes it easier to chew and digest.
Some studies described that cooking meat may reduce certain vitamins and minerals, including niacin, thiamine, calcium, sodium, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium, and phosphorus. Meanwhile, these studies also focus upon the fact that levels of other minerals like copper, zinc, and iron are highly increased after cooking. These losses could be due to two phenomena, on one hand B complex vitamins are water soluble thus some cooking methods may produce higher losses (boiling) and on the other hand, B vitamins are thermally unstable thus shorter periods of cooking (stir frying) and underdone roasts may reduce these losses (2).
On other hand, one study found out that cooking decreased iron in meats. Seemingly more studies are required to understand how cooking affects the value of nutritional meat. After heat treatments heme iron is converted to a different extent in non-heme iron, the less available form of iron. Iron can be found in two different forms: heme-iron and non-heme iron. Heme-iron comes from hemoglobin and myoglobin thus it is only present in animal foods. It is highly bioavailable and easily absorbed in the intestine. Meat is the best source of heme-iron (2).
The optimum level of benefit of eating raw meat is likely related to the higher risk of getting a foodborne illness. Empirical data on the nutritional differences that exist between raw and cooked meat is limited and there are not many benefits of eating raw meat.
If you are much fond of eating raw meat
Eating raw meat does not guarantee to be safe. There are a few ways to lessen your risk of getting ill.
Understanding meat safety from production through to consumption is an important prerequisite to effective control of diseases. Food can be contaminated throughout the production and distribution chain. Pathogens may move from their host animal to food through a number of routes, the pathway through slaughter to the raw, then cooked product being the most direct. Environmental contamination from animal sources may result in contamination of other foods (such as leafy vegetables or other plants) or water. Humans may also have direct contact with the animal, domestic pets or wildlife. Transfer of pathogens from humans to carcass and meat can also occur. Therefore, safe handling is crucial to avoid contaminations (3).
Selection in raw meat, it may be wise for an individual to choose whole meat as opposed to pre-packaged meat.
Because meat from many different cows greatly increases your risk of getting ill with foodborne illness. In other varieties of meat like fish, pork, and chicken, eating any type of raw meat is riskier than eating another type of other whole meat.
Raw fish tends to be better than other types of raw meat as it kills several dangerous pathogens. While chicken is much more dangerous to be eaten in raw form. As compared with others it tends to consist of more harmful bacteria.
Since the risk of foodborne illness can be avoided by cooking meats to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or 63 degrees centigrade. Meanwhile eating raw meat has risks and if you follow some steps you can increase food safety and can avoid foodborne illness.
The most necessary safety practice is to keep raw meat away from other foods that are to be eaten uncooked (4).
After purchase, transport meat in a cooler to avoid increasing temperature, which favors bacterial growth. Do not keep the meat unrefrigerated for long periods.
Keep raw meat at the bottom-most shelf of the refrigerator so it does not leak over other foods. Consume or freeze the meat in a maximum period of 2 days.
Make sure to wash your hands in warm water with soap and dry them properly before you start to prepare food
Thoroughly wash all cooking equipment and kitchen tops after preparing raw meat
This decreases the risk of cross-contamination, which can occur when dealing with any raw meat or unwashed vegetables.
Other FAQs about Meat that you may be interested in.
Can you eat meat after the use-by date?
In this brief guide, we have answered the question “Can you eat raw meat?”. We have also elaborated what are the factors which we can face by eating raw meat, what are their signs and symptoms of diseases, and which step you should follow.
- Bintsis, Thomas. Foodborne pathogens. AIMS microbiol, 2017, 3, 529.
- Pereira, Paula Manuela de Castro Cardoso, and Ana Filipa dos Reis Baltazar Vicente. Meat nutritional composition and nutritive role in the human diet. Meat sci, 2013, 93, 586-592.
- Fegan, Narelle, and Ian Jenson. The role of meat in foodborne disease: Is there a coming revolution in risk assessment and management?. Meat sci, 2018, 144, 22-29.
- Karabudak, Efsun, Murat Bas, and Gul Kiziltan. Food safety in the home consumption of meat in Turkey. Food Control, 2008, 19, 320-327.