While the danger associated with eating uncooked or undercooked pork has decreased since the '70s and '80s, you still shouldn't eat your pork raw or rare. Pigs are raised a lot differently than they used to be, but there's still a risk that you'll contract one of two nasty parasites from eating pork: trichinosis or pork tapeworm [source: The Daily Meal].
You've probably heard of trichinosis before. It's a parasite that takes up residence in your small intestine after you eat infected meat, and pigs aren't the only animals that can harbor it. Raw bear, cougar, wolf, fox and walrus are also potential carriers [source: CDC]. So next time you prepare a walrus steak, cook it to well done.
The first signs of trichinosis are stomach issues like nausea and vomiting. In the week after infection, the parasites reproduce, and their babies enter your bloodstream. When this happens, you can show symptoms from muscle pain to pink eye. Very severe cases can lead to death, though it's rare [source: Mayo Clinic]. Trichinosis cases have gone down drastically as the pork industry has made systemic safety changes and awareness of proper cooking has increased; the CDC now only receives about 20 reports of trichinosis per year [source: CDC].
Pork tapeworm is actually worse than trichinosis. An infected person can range from having no symptoms at all to having seizures. In fact, pork tapeworm is one of the top causes of seizures worldwide [source: Doerr].
The good news is that it's not hard to cook pork safely. All you need are patience and a meat thermometer. Cook ground pork until there is no pink flesh inside at all and the meat reaches an inner temperature of 160 F (71 C), though large cuts of pork may still be slightly pink and cooked to just 145 F (63 C) [source: FoodSafety.gov].
There is one place where people eat raw pork semi-regularly and manage to live, though. In parts of Germany there's a minced raw pork dish called mett that's a cultural staple. Germany did report 52 cases of trichinosis in the 1999 due to people eating raw pork, though, so take that into consideration when you see mett on the menu [source: Lawley]. Traditionally, chefs form the raw, ground pork into the shape of a hedgehog, using raw onion slices for the "spines" [source: Melican].
This list might make you feel like you're taking your life into your hands every time you pick up your fork, but with proper cooking, even these foods are safe to eat. Bon appetit!
Author's Note: 10 Foods You Should Never Eat Raw
I'm a longtime vegan who definitely enjoys a raw meal here and there, so this topic was particularly interesting to research. Most of the foods on this list were not new to me, but I was surprised to learn that you need to cook wild mushrooms before eating. Fancy, exotic mushrooms are one of the things I like to splurge on at the farmers market, so now I know to be more careful about how I prepare them. And I've got to try that mushroom ceviche!
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