Can You Get Trichinosis From Eating Raw or Undercooked Bacon?

Eating raw or undercooked pork products like bacon can expose you to the risk of trichinosis, a foodborne illness caused by roundworm parasites. However, the prevalence of this disease has declined dramatically over the past few decades thanks to changes in pig farming and pork processing.

Trichinosis, also known as trichinellosis, is contracted by consuming raw or undercooked meats, particularly pork, that contains Trichinella spiralis larvae. When the infected meat is digested, the larvae are released and mature into adult worms that produce new larvae. These new larvae migrate into muscle tissues, causing symptoms like abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, and muscle pains.

While trichinosis can be serious if left untreated, cases have become increasingly rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were only 16 confirmed cases per year in the United States between 2011-2015 compared to 400 cases per year in the 1940s.

Can You Get Trichinosis from Bacon?

Yes, it is possible to contract trichinosis from eating raw or undercooked bacon. The Trichinella larvae can be present in any pork product if the original pig was infected. This includes fresh pork cuts like bacon.

However commercial pork production practices have changed drastically since the mid-20th century, making infection far less likely today.

Changes in Pork Production

  • Confined Housing – Pigs raised for consumption are now housed indoors in climate-controlled facilities which prevents exposure to wildlife and contaminated feeds that may harbor Trichinella larvae.

  • Commercial Feed – Store-bought feeds have replaced raw food scraps and garbage that may have contained infected rodent carcasses. The commercial feeds pigs eat today are clean and parasite-free.

  • Improved Testing – Newer testing methods can detect lower levels of Trichinella larvae in pork products. Testing at slaughterhouses now catches infected pigs before they enter the food supply.

  • Freezing Standards – Pork sold at grocery stores has been frozen to standards that kill any Trichinella larvae present. The USDA requires pork to reach 5°F (-15°C) for 20 days, 3°F (-16°C) for 35 days, or -10°F (-23°C) for 10 days.

Thanks to these measures, the risk of getting trichinosis from store-bought pork, including bacon, is extremely low in developed countries. However, you can take extra precautions if still concerned.

How to Avoid Trichinosis from Bacon

To eliminate any risk of contracting trichinosis from bacon or other pork products:

  • Purchase Commercially Frozen Bacon – Opt for bacon that has been frozen according to USDA standards to kill parasites. Check that the packaging indicates it is fully cooked.

  • Cook Thoroughly – Fry bacon until crispy or bake until browned and dry. Use a food thermometer to confirm the internal temperature reaches at least 145°F.

  • Microwave Safely – Microwaved bacon may not cook evenly. Place bacon on a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels, cook on high, and check for doneness.

  • Avoid Raw Bacon – Do not sample uncooked bacon or use it in recipes without thorough cooking, like carbonara sauce or raw bacon jam.

  • Check Expiration Dates – Do not use bacon that has passed its expiration date, as it could have been stored improperly.

  • Buy Reputable Brands – Stick to major national bacon brands that follow rigorous standards, rather than obscure specialty brands.

Exercising caution is prudent, but the chances of getting trichinosis from commercially sold bacon today are extremely slim. Since 2011, there has not been a single documented case of trichinosis from commercially processed pork in the United States. Nearly all recent cases were linked to consumption of wild game meat.

As long as you are purchasing quality bacon from a grocery store and cooking it properly, you really do not need to worry about contracting trichinosis. So go ahead and enjoy those bacon cheeseburgers guilt-free!

Identifying Trichinosis Symptoms

If you do have concerns about possible exposure to Trichinella from undercooked pork, be on the lookout for common trichinosis symptoms:

  • Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort within 1-2 days of infection.

  • Fever, chills, fatigue, and muscle pain within 1-2 weeks.

  • Headaches, cough, rash, eye swelling, and difficulty coordinating muscle movements in severe cases.

Seek medical attention if these symptoms emerge after eating raw or undercooked pork. Inform your doctor about the possible trichinosis exposure so appropriate testing can be conducted.

Blood tests, muscle biopsy, or antibody testing may be used to diagnose trichinosis. Treatment involves prescription anti-parasitic medications like albendazole or mebendazole to kill adult worms and prevent larvae from maturing.

Preventing Trichinosis

While trichinosis from commercial pork is very uncommon today, you can take steps to avoid infection:

  • Cook all pork to an internal temperature of at least 145°F as measured by a food thermometer.

  • Do not taste or eat raw or undercooked pork or pork products.

  • Freeze pork less than 6 inches thick for at least 20 days at 5°F to kill any parasites.

  • When preparing pork, use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils to avoid cross-contamination.

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling raw pork.

Exercising caution when handling and cooking pork will provide protection against the slight risk of trichinosis that exists. But overall, contracting trichinosis from bacon or other commercial pork products is extremely unlikely, so there’s no need to avoid them altogether if cooked properly.

Infectious Diseases A-Z: Will eating undercooked pork make you sick?

Can you get trichinosis if you eat meat?

Trichinosis, also known as trichinellosis, is a disease caused by a species of roundworm called Trichinella. These parasitic roundworms are found in animals that eat meat, such as: You can contract trichinosis if you eat raw or undercooked meat from an animal infected with Trichinella, but the most common offending agent for humans is pork meat.

Are there other ways to contract trichomoniasis?

Generally, there are several methods to spread the disease of trichomoniasis, such as the unclean sexual intercourse or contact with the daily necessities of patients. The disease needs to be treated after diagnosis.

How do you get Trichinosis (trichinellosis)?

The most common ways to get trichinosis (trichinellosis) are: Eating raw or undercooked pork products. Eating improperly stored meats. Unclean kitchen utensils used to prepare meats. Eating raw or undercooked meat from wild animals that are infected. These animals include deer, moose, elk, boar, bear, walrus and many birds.

What animals get trichinosis?

Trichinosis is transmitted when a person eats raw or undercooked meat that is infected with the parasite. Most commonly, it is found in pigs, wild boar, and bear. But it can be found in other animals as well, including dogs, cats, rats, foxes, and wolves. Animals get it from eating other animals that are infected.

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