Control of the risk of human toxoplasmosis transmitted by meat

Int J Parasitol. 2008 Oct;38(12):1359-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2008.06.002. Epub 2008 Jul 23.


One-third of the human world population is infected with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Recent calculations of the disease burden of toxoplasmosis rank this foodborne disease at the same level as salmonellosis or campylobacteriosis. The high disease burden in combination with disappointing results of the currently available treatment options have led to a plea for more effective prevention. In this review we describe Toxoplasma as a hazard associated with the consumption of undercooked meat or meat products and provide an analysis of the various options to control the risk of human toxoplasmosis via this source. Monitoring and surveillance programs may be implemented for pre-harvest control of Toxoplasma infection of farm animals, with the reduction of environmental oocyst load as the most important milestone. Alternatively, Toxoplasma safe meat can be obtained through simple post-harvest decontamination procedures, whereby freezing the meat may currently be the best option, although new technologies using irradiation or high-pressure treatment may offer promising alternatives. Influence of culture, religion and food handling customs may predispose a certain type of meat as an important source of infection, indicating that prevention needs to be tailored according to social habits in different regions in the world. The rationale for more stringent control measures to prevent toxoplasmosis both from disease and economic points of view is emphasized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Cattle
  • Food Handling / standards*
  • Food Parasitology
  • Goats
  • Horses
  • Humans
  • Meat / parasitology*
  • Poultry
  • Swine
  • Toxoplasmosis / epidemiology
  • Toxoplasmosis / prevention & control
  • Toxoplasmosis / transmission*
  • Toxoplasmosis, Animal / transmission