Coronavirus myth busted: Eating meat does not cause coronavirus infection

The World Health Organisation suggests that it is always best to thoroughly cook meats and eggs before consuming them - to be on the safe side.

Myupchar March 12, 2020 12:39:31 IST
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Coronavirus myth busted: Eating meat does not cause coronavirus infection

One of the industries that have been struck the hardest by the spread of COVID-19 is the meat industry. 

Since the first few cases were reported from the Wuhan wet market, people are reportedly avoiding all kinds of animal meat and moving to meat substitutes like jackfruits. Tags like 'no meat no coronavirus ' are trending on twitter, promoting vegetarianism or even veganism and encouraging people to turn towards them. Some even think that they are safe from coronavirus as long as they don’t consume meat.

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Representational image. AFP

Meanwhile, the GSG Ayyangar, the chief of the Food Safety and Standards Association (FSSAI), India has stated that the disease does not spread through chicken, mutton or fish.

The European Food Saftey Association has also released an article that says there is no scientific proof so far that coronavirus can spread through food. 

Here is all you need to know about the link between coronavirus and meat consumption.

The Wuhan wet market

The very first patients of COVID-19 were from a wet market in Wuhan. The market sells all sorts of seafood and meat which includes bats, snakes, civets and pangolins. Even though the market is said to be the source of the infection, there is no saying which animal is responsible for it yet. Snakes were initially claimed to be a possible source of the virus since the genetic code of the virus matched a lot more with snakes than it did with chickens, hedgehogs, pangolins and bats. 

But the theory was soon discarded since a lot of scientists found it to be highly unlikely that the virus could come to humans directly from reptiles. 

The DNA code of the novel coronavirus matched a lot with bats (about 96%) - bats are responsible for the spread of SARS and MERS, two previous coronavirus outbreaks. However, later, specific differences in the novel coronavirus DNA indicated that bats could not have directly transmitted the disease to humans either and hence there must be an intermediate animal that is responsible for it. 

Pangolins do not have enough similarities with the coronavirus DNA to be called an intermediate host. So, the mystery continues.

The importance of cooking meat

Several foodborne infections can spread through contaminated meat. These include SalmonellaStaphyloccocusShigella, Hepatitis A, Norovirus and E.coli

The World Health Organisation suggests that it is always best to thoroughly cook meats and eggs before consuming them - to be on the safe side. Cooking kills most of the harmful microbes in meat. 

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, US, recommends a 4-step process when dealing with meat or seafood: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

  • Clean your hands and the cooking area.
  • To prevent cross-contamination separate all utensils for raw meat, poultry and seafood and clean/cut them separately.
  • Cook at the right temperature for that specific meat.
  • Refrigerate the meat - it shouldn't stay out for more than two hours. 

For more tips, read our article on  Coronavirus infection.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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