Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that is responsible for approximately 24% of all estimated deaths attributed to foodborne pathogens in the United States. Human infection results from accidental ingestion of oocysts from the environment, in water, or on insufficiently washed produce or from consumption of raw or undercooked meat products that contain T. gondii tissue cysts. This review focused on studies of T. gondii in meat because many human T. gondii infections are acquired through consumption of raw or undercooked meat. Prevalence of T. gondii is higher in conventionally reared pigs, sheep, and poultry than in cattle and is greater in meat products from organic than from conventionally reared meat animals because of outdoor access, which poses substantially greater opportunities for exposure to infected rodents, wildlife, and oocyst-contaminated feed, water, or environmental surfaces. Risk factors related to T. gondii exposure for livestock include farm type, feed source, presence of cats, methods of rodent and bird control, methods of carcass handling, and water quality. This review serves as a useful resource and information repository for informing quantitative risk assessment studies for T. gondii infection in humans through meat consumption.

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.