A carpaccio salad. A beef sausage sandwich. A sandwich with a substantial layer of filet americain. Tasty, but also dangerous.
Because raw meat, including filet americain, can cause a brain disorder due to the toxoplasma parasite on the product. "For the vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, the elderly, cancer patients and other people with poor resistance, the effects can be very dangerous," says Nutrition Center's Wieke van der Vossen. With miscarriages, premature births, eye disorders and brain disorders as a result.
'Do not panic'
But: no reason to panic, says Van der Vossen. "We just have to be careful with raw meat." The RIVM advises today to freeze filet americain, so that the dangerous parasite dies. That can save Dutch society as much as 10 to 30 million a year in medical costs.
At cold temperatures, from 12 degrees below 0, the parasite dies. "But then at least two days. A day is not enough."
In the factory
The Nutrition Center believes that it is best that freezing is done in the factory, 'at the source'. The problem is: this is not happening now, because producers are not obliged to do so. "It is an extra operation for them and it costs more money." Another problem: as a consumer you cannot check whether the raw meat that you purchase has been frozen. "It is usually not on a package and the producer is not obliged to report it."
That would be advisable, says Van der Vossen. "For herring, it is legally stipulated that it must have been frozen before sale and consumption." This is because in the past people have fallen ill from the herringworm. "It was then legally established that freezing is mandatory."
Stop it or not?
Or should we just stop eating raw meat? "We advise the risk groups not to do it, but otherwise all healthy people may of course know that for themselves."
The Nutrition Center does not hide the fact that a well-cooked steak is better than the medium version. And carpaccio, filet americain: these are risk products. "You can get mild symptoms, even with good resistance, such as flu, abdominal pain, or even food poisoning."
"Sin of taste"
Freezing filet americain? Nicky Kooke from Slagerij De Kroes in Hilversum is not really a fan of it. "Why should I freeze meat when I have it fresh? If you freeze something, moisture is added when you start cooling again. Then it tastes differently, and the chance that it starts to oil is also greater. it defrosts bacteria. "
At Slagerij De Kroes, they are always the first to make fillet: "We have it ready at 7:15 am. The only raw materials are fresh tartar, fillet sauce and mayonnaise. We don't add much else to it."
Filet americain does not have a long shelf life because it is a fresh product. "You have to eat it within three days. And it's well known that you shouldn't eat it when you are pregnant."
It is therefore all the more important that people use raw meat wisely. "You can eat vegetables a few days past the expiry date, raw meat cannot." Freezing yourself is wise. Another advice from the nutritionist: "Back in the cooling as quickly as possible. Preferably 4 degrees, or colder."
Because the parasite is dead and will not return after one freeze, but bacteria only fall asleep at cold temperatures. In addition, they love temperatures between 15 and 50 degrees and raw meat. "Under those circumstances, they are growing rapidly in number."
The listeria or salmonella bacteria in particular is dangerous for our health, especially for those at-risk groups. "They don't do much for people with good resistance."
Bacteria on raw meat are only killed if they are baked with temperatures above 70 degrees. But baking filet americain? You don't do that just like that. "Then of course the whole taste is gone, it doesn't seem really good to me. So I understand that people eat it, and that's fine. As long as they are careful."
Patricia Meijboom was infected as a fetus by the dangerous parasite that can sit on raw meat. Every day she still suffers from it: she is almost blind. With one eye she sees nothing anymore, with her other eye it is as if she is peering through a cloudy milk bottle.
"I think women who eat raw meat during pregnancy are just as bad as women who smoke. They have to walk with me for a day. Then they see how heavy it is." Read her entire story here.