Sticky Note

Food Industry and the Parasite

The protozoan Giardia causes the diarrheal disease called giardiasis. Giardia species exist as free-swimming (by means of flagella) trophozoites, and as egg-shaped cysts. It is the cystic stage, which facilitates the survival of these organisms under harsh environmental conditions. The cyst is considered the infective form, and disease is often transmitted by drinking contaminated water. As depicted in these SEMs, in the intestine, cysts are stimulated to liberate trophozoites. Cysts can be shed in fecal material, and can, thereafter, remain viable for several months in appropriate environmental conditions. Cysts can also be transferred directly from person-to-person, as a result of poor hygiene. Source:  CDC Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is considered the third leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States that have caused death.  Toxoplasmosis is a parasite.

Parasites are organisms that live on or in a host organism and feeds off of them.  There are three main classes of parasites that can infect a human.





From my studies I have learned that the protozoa would be the most common parasitic concern for food handlers.  Protozoa are one celled organisms that can multiply in humans.  Living in humans enables Protozoa to continue to multiply and survive.  Serious infections can occur from just one single organism.

Protozoa that live in human intestines are transmitted to other humans through fecal-oral route.  Protozoa can be transmitted through contaminated water, soil, food, or from person-to-person contact.  Food handlers that practice poor hygiene or unsanitary working facilities can be a source of transmission.

It is believed that more than 60 million people in the United States actually carry the Toxoplasmosis parasite, but most healthy people will not show symptoms.  People that are most at risk are people with severely weakened immune systems.

Common Causes

The most common causes of this illness from the food industry would be:

  1. Eating undercooked, contaminated meat.  (Especially pork, lamb, and venison.)
  2. Accidental ingestion of undercooked, contaminated meats.  This happens after handling the infected product and not washing your hands thoroughly.  Toxoplasmosis cannot go through skin that is intact.
  3. Eating foods that came in contact with utensils, knives, cutting boards, (any contact surface) that have not been properly washed after being used for meats that are contaminated.
  4. Contaminated drinking water.

Restaurant Guidelines

You can easily put in place guidelines and policies in your restaurant to ensure that you and your staff are doing all that you can to help prevent the spread of Toxoplasmosis.  Here are some guidelines that you can train your staff by:

  • Cook all meats according to a safe temperature.  Do not sample meats until they are finished cooking, and always use a thermometer.
  • Wash or Wash & Peal vegetables before use.
  • Wash hands, utensils and all surfaces that come in contact with raw meat, seafood, poultry, and unwashed vegetables.  Always use hot soapy water.
  • Greatly reduce the chance of infection by freezing meats at sub-zero temperatures for up to three days before use.

You must make sure to follow up on any mandatory kitchen procedures set in place.  Anything that you can do as a leader to help your staff understand the importance of these procedures will help keep your restaurant a safe place to eat.

Further reading:  Listeria          Salmonella


>> One other simple way to help keep your restaurant safe would be to hang Team 101’s “Temperature Chart for Cooking Proteins” and our Fat Tom Chart in your kitchen so that your staff has easy access to the information needed.

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