Risk Assessment of Human Toxoplasmosis Associated with the Consumption of Pork Meat in Italy

Risk Anal. 2018 Jun;38(6):1202-1222. doi: 10.1111/risa.12934. Epub 2017 Nov 3.


Toxoplasmosis is a cosmopolitan disease and has a broad range of hosts, including humans and several wild and domestic animals. The human infection is mostly acquired through the consumption of contaminated food and pork meat has been recognized as one of the major sources of transmission. There are, however, certain fundamental differences between countries; therefore, the present study specifically aims to evaluate the exposure of the Italian population to Toxoplasma gondii through the ingestion of several types of pork meat products habitually consumed in Italy and to estimate the annual number of human infections within two subgroups of the population. A quantitative risk assessment model was built for this reason and was enriched with new elements in comparison to other similar risk assessments in order to enhance its accuracy. Sensitivity analysis and two alternative scenarios were implemented to identify the factors that have the highest impact on risk and to simulate different plausible conditions, respectively. The estimated overall average number of new infections per year among adults is 12,513 and 92 for pregnant women. The baseline model showed that almost all these infections are associated with the consumption of fresh meat cuts and preparations (mean risk of infection varied between 4.5 × 10-5 and 5.5 × 10-5 ) and only a small percentage is due to fermented sausages/salami. On the contrary, salt-cured meat products seem to pose minor risk but further investigations are needed to clarify still unclear aspects. Among all the considered variables, cooking temperature and bradyzoites' concentration in muscle impacted most the risk.

Keywords: Pork products; Toxoplasma gondii; quantitative microbial risk assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Cooking
  • Female
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Meat Products / parasitology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Red Meat / parasitology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Swine / parasitology
  • Toxoplasma*
  • Toxoplasmosis / epidemiology*
  • Toxoplasmosis / prevention & control
  • Toxoplasmosis, Animal / epidemiology*
  • Toxoplasmosis, Animal / prevention & control