Iguana for you? The biological risks of eating reptiles

A study published last year in the International Journal of Food Microbiology shows that people can catch certain diseases (trichinosis, pentastomiasis, gnathostomiasis and sparganosis) by eating the meat of reptiles such as crocodiles, turtles, lizards or snakes (or iguanas, right).

Simone Magnino, lead author of the study and a researcher for the World Health Organization (WHO), told the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology that,

"The clearest microbiological risk comes from the possible presence of pathogenic bacteria, especially Salmonella, and also Shigella, Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterolitica, Campylobacter, Clostridium and Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause illnesses of varying degrees of severity."

This expert says the data about risks to public health are still inconclusive, since there is no comparative information about consuming this meat and the prevalence of pathogens. Also, there are few published research articles about cases of illness associated with consuming reptile meat.

The experts advise people to freeze the meat, just as they would with other foods from animal sources, since this deactivates parasites. Industrial processing and proper cooking (not leaving the meat raw) can also kill off pathogens.

Citation: Simone Magnino, Pierre Colin, Eduardo Dei-Cas, Mogens Madsen, Jim McLauchlin, Karsten Nöckler, Miguel Prieto Maradona, Eirini Tsigarida, Emmanuel Vanopdenbosch and Carlos Van Peteghem. "Biological risks associated with consumption of reptile products." International Journal of Food Microbiology 134 (2009) 163, September 2009.