The consumption of raw meat is often shown in British TV, why?
Posted on September 30th, 2015

Dr Hector Perera    London

The consumption of meat has grown significantly during the last few years, with one estimate of the global average in 2000 to be 38 kg/capita. The United States of America has the highest consumption rate of meat in the world, estimated to be around 82 kg/capita in 2000 alone. You also must have witnessed how cooking is done by so called famous chefs in British TV. Sometimes they toss a slice of raw meat a few times on a hot pan then say it’s cooked. When cut, either virtually blood dripping red raw meat. Further lots of fumes containing oils and chemicals are given out this process but the chefs don’t care at all. I am sure you have already heard that inhaling cooking aroma is unhealthy but they cook that way in order to impress the public. The excuse was the medium cooked beef is tastier than over cooked beef.

While the majority of meat is cooked before eating, some cultural traditions such as crudos, steak, tartare, sushi, sashimi, raw oysters, or other delicacies call for uncooked meat. The risk of disease from ingesting pathogens found in raw meat is significantly higher than cooked meat, although both can be contaminated. Meat can be incorrectly or insufficiently cooked, allowing disease-carrying pathogens to be ingested. Also, meat can be contaminated during the production process at any time, from the slicing of prepared meats to cross-contamination of food in a refrigerator. All of these situations lead to a greater risk of disease.

Raw meat diseases

Every year in the United States, 6.5 million to 33 million cases of illness are diagnosed due to microbial pathogens, with about 900,000 deaths occurring annually as well. According to a multi-state study published in the America Journal of Preventative Medicine, the annual cost of disease caused by food borne pathogens is estimated to be anywhere from 9.3 to 12.9 billion dollars in medical costs and productivity losses.”  Most of these diseases come from contact with contaminated raw meat, although other “vehicles of transmission” are becoming more and more frequent due to global travel. Other sources of disease-causing pathogens can include, but are not limited to: lettuce, sprouts, fruit juices vegetables and raw milk and water.  The type of pathogen present varies depending on the type of meat eaten.

Beef, poultry and seafood

I am not in favour to eat any kind of raw or under cooked beef because of the risks to health. Those British TV chefs must be unaware of the risks of eating under cooked beef or medium cooked beef. There are many disease-carrying pathogens found in raw meats, and they differ according to the source, whether it be mammalian, poultry or seafood. Some disease-carrying pathogens found in beef are Salmonellas, Escherichia coli, Shaquille, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes.

When you walk down the high street in small towns, you might come across some butcher shops where they display poultry without refrigeration. Those people must be unaware the fact that that kind of display is not healthy. I am so surprised to see even the local authorities also ignore that kind of display. If vehicles are parked on a yellow line for minutes, the parking attendants are there to issue tickets but if meat and beef are displayed in the wrong way then the health authorities are not there to see to them. Different varieties of Salmonellas are often found in contaminated poultry. You would not be surprised to see some fish stalls as well keep lots of fish without refrigeration for long number of hours. The local supermarkets always follow rules in refrigeration of meat and fish but the rules are not obeyed by local butcher shops. Seafood itself can also contain a wide variety of pathogens. Some people consume large garden snails. In some fish shops or even in common grocery shops they sell these snails and oysters but they are not under any kind refrigeration to avoid the growth of germs and bacteria. The most common pathogen in raw oysters is Vibrio gastroenteritis, while Salmonella, Plesiomonas shigelloides and staphylococcus are found in contaminated raw shrimp, and Vibrio cholerae has been found in raw crabmeat. In Sri Lanka, in places like Negombo and Chilaw, large and small live crabs and oysters are found in fish markets.

Damage done by eating raw meat

Many of the symptoms that result from these diseases involve intestinal damage and can have potentially fatal effects for those at risk. The symptoms of an E. coli infection include bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, and possible complications for the immune-compromised, elderly or children. These complications can include Haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) and neurological problems. The symptoms of Vibrio gastroenteritis include frequent fevers, bloody diarrhea, long duration of illness and hospitalization. While most of these diseases are still most commonly found in raw meat, the instances of detection in other mediums are increasing. For instance, Salmonella is most commonly found in poultry, but has been recently identified in sources such as eggs, diary, meat, fresh vegetables and fruits. E. coli has also been found in beef, lamb, lettuce, sprouts, fruit juices, vegetables, raw milk, and water. Possible reasons for the increase are the globalization of the food market, improper handling, and leakage.

Safety precautions

Food can be contaminated at any step of production or cooking, especially those that occur at home before consumption. According to a study published in the Journal of Food Safety on consumer attitudes and awareness of disease, most outbreaks of food borne illnesses result from contaminated raw foods, cross-contamination, insufficient cooking, inadequate cooling or a lapse of more than 12 hours between preparing and eating.”  The study focused on habits of consumers in the kitchen with preparing raw meat. According to the results, 14% did not wash utensils or dishes between using them for raw and cooked foods, and 75% were unaware of the risks of storing raw meat on upper levels of refrigerators and the risk of cross-contamination below. The instances of salmonellosis and campylo-bacteriosis have increased in the past decade, according to the study, most frequently because of the improper handling of foods by consumers and food service workers.” Data gathered in a multi-state survey in 1999 found that out of 19,356 adults interviewed: 19% did not wash hands or cutting boards after handling raw meat, 20% ate pink hamburgers often, 50% ate undercooked eggs on a regular basis, 8% had raw oysters habitually, and 1% drank unpasteurized milk. These behaviours increase the risk of acquiring SalmonellasVibrio vulnificusVibrio gastroenteritis, and Escherichia coli. Your comments are welcomed [email protected]

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