Raw food: health risks are often underestimated

22-Feb-2023 - Germany

A glass of raw milk for breakfast, a roll with raw ham at lunchtime and a homemade smoothie with frozen berries in the afternoon - raw or unheated foods are regularly on the menu of the population. This is the result of a recent representative survey by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). However, raw animal products, as well as plant products, should be consumed with caution. They can contain pathogenic germs such as salmonella, listeria and Campylobacter and lead to food infections. Young children, people with pre-existing conditions, the elderly and pregnant women are particularly at risk. "The health risks of raw foods are often underestimated," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "Heating protects. Diseases can be avoided even with simple kitchen hygiene rules. In particular, sensitive groups of people should consume raw foods from animals only sufficiently heated."

Foto von Chris Ralston auf Unsplash

Particularly popular raw foods include raw sausage and raw ham, which are eaten by more than one-third of respondents several times a week. At least one to three times a month, raw meats and sausages are on the menu of 73 percent of respondents, followed by soft raw milk cheese (57 percent). Other foods consumed with the same frequency by about one-third of respondents include raw meat (38 percent), cold-smoked fish (33 percent) and frozen berries (33 percent). While around one in five (21 percent) snack on raw sweet dough with eggs at least once to three times a month, the figure for raw dough without eggs is still one in eight (12 percent). Raw milk is drunk at least one to three times a month by 19 percent of those surveyed.

Every year, around 100,000 illnesses are reported in Germany that may have been caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites in food. The number of unreported cases is probably much higher. While salmonella, listeria and norovirus are known to the majority of the population, knowledge of other food-borne pathogens is less well known. Particularly surprising: although campylobacteriosis has been the most frequently reported bacterial foodborne illness in Germany and Europe for years, only just under a quarter (23 percent) of people know the causative pathogen campylobacter. The same applies to the abbreviations STEC, EHEC and VTEC for particularly dangerous Escherichia coli bacteria (27 percent). The aforementioned pathogens can lurk in a variety of raw foods: Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry meat, chicken eggs and raw meat and sausage products, Listeria in cold-smoked fish products and raw milk cheese or norovirus in raw oysters and frozen berries as well as STEC in flour.

Perceptions of health risk sometimes vary widely between different raw or unheated foods. A moderate to (very) high health risk is perceived by the majority of respondents, particularly in raw fish and raw seafood, raw meat, raw eggs, and raw sweet dough with eggs. Frozen berries, on the other hand, are perceived to pose the least risk. Other foods that the majority of respondents also associate with a (very) low health risk are soft raw milk cheese, cold-smoked fish, raw sausage and raw ham, and raw dough without eggs.

To protect against foodborne infections, it is important to follow kitchen hygiene rules to prevent pathogens from raw foods from spreading to others. Young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should also only eat raw food from animals if it has been sufficiently heated beforehand.

Note: This article has been translated using a computer system without human intervention. LUMITOS offers these automatic translations to present a wider range of current news. Since this article has been translated with automatic translation, it is possible that it contains errors in vocabulary, syntax or grammar. The original article in German can be found here.

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