Food Safety

Hunting Season Renews Trichinosis Fears

As U.S. states see the beginning of another wild game hunting season, health officials are sending out warnings about the dangers of undercooked or improperly handled game meats. Last year, for example, Wisconsin saw an outbreak of trichinosis that was ultimately blamed on undercooked bear meat.

“Wild game is frequently exposed to parasites and bacteria that can make people sick,” warns State Health Officer Karen McKeown in a press release issued by Wisconsin Department of Health Services last month.

Trichinosis is a parasitic disease caused by a type of roundworm but it is by no means the only pathogen out there. Bacterial infections from Brucella, Salmonella and E. coli, as well as infections caused by tapeworm, can all be consequences of consuming undercooked game meat. These pathogens are easily killed with proper cooking but they will typically survive being frozen, even for long periods of time.

Good estimates of how many people are sickened by parasites and bacteria in game meat each year are hard to come by but certain animals are known to carry certain dangers. Brucellosis, for example, can be carried by:

  • Wild boar
  • Bison
  • Elk
  • Deer
  • Caribou
  • Moose

Trichinellosis can be contracted through contact with:

  • Bear
  • Cougar
  • Wild boar

To reduce your risk of becoming ill–or making your family sick–health experts recommend some commonsense tips when it comes to field dressing your kills:

  • Do not harvest meat from sick animals or those you find dead.
  • Wear goggles and latex gloves to protect yourself from blood and other body fluids.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while processing animals.
  • Burn or bury any part of the carcass you don’t use. And include your gloves, too.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water as soon as possible.
  • Properly disinfect all your tools after use.

And, of course, if you fall ill after eating any type of wild game, you should see your doctor.


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