In Korea an outbreak of human toxoplasmosis was caused by ingesting food contaminated with Toxoplasma gondii

This is a recently published study on how prevalent the disease called toxoplasmosis is in Korean cats and dogs. It appears to have been carried out because of an outbreak of human toxoplasmosis which has been put down to eating food contaminated with Toxoplasma gondii. This is the most common way a person is infected and not, as is often cited, through cat faeces in cat litter trays. If you want to dramatically reduce the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis you should make sure that you cook your meat properly. CDC in America state that to prevent risk of toxoplasmosis, you have got to cook food to safe temperatures. You should use a food thermometer rather than doing it visually.

Toxoplasma gondii cyst in mouse brain.
Toxoplasma gondii cyst in mouse brain. Image in public domain.
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For whole cuts of meat but not including poultry you should cook to hundred and 145°F which is 63°C. The thermometer should be in the thickest part of the meat. The cooked meat should rest for three minutes before carving.

The rest period after the cooked meat is removed from the oven is important, the experts say. The temperature of the meat remains constant after removal from the oven or continues to rise which destroys pathogens.

For ground meat cook to at least 160°F and for poultry cook to at least 165°F.

In addition, you can freeze meat for several days at subzero temperatures before cooking to reduce the chance of infection. Freezing does not kill other parasites reliably. In addition to cooking meat at the right temperature, you should ensure that you wash fruits and vegetables before eating them. Kitchen utensils and boards should be kept clean. All the usual hygiene rules apply.

To return to the study that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the researchers found that “antibody prevalence” of stray cats, stray dogs, domestic cats and domestic dogs were 14.1%, 5.6%, 2.3%, and 0.04% respectively. This means that stray cats are the most likely companion animal to carry the disease compared to domestic dogs who are the most least likely to carry the disease. Comment: the disease can be transmitted only for a relatively short time by cats, by the way. The figure of 5.6% of domestic cats carrying the disease seems low to me.

P.S. “Toxoplasmosis prevalence varies from 10 to 90% of the adult population, according to each region or food habits.” – Toxoplasma gondii: from animals to humans. Tenter AM, Heckeroth AR, Weiss LM Int J Parasitol. 2000 Nov; 30(12-13):1217-58.

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