Even as reptiles become a delicacy in some places around the world, researchers are expressing concern on the dangerous side effects that arise from eating them.
Experts warn that eating crocodiles, turtles, lizards or snakes may result in exposure to dangerous parasites, bacteria, viruses, and to a lesser extent, contamination from heavy metals and residues of veterinary drugs.
According to the study, people can also catch certain diseases (trichinosis, pentastomiasis, gnathostomiasis and sparganosis) by eating reptile meat.
"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," said Simone Magnino, lead author of the study and a researcher for the World Health Organization (WHO).
Magninon 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.
"Although the majority of the information published about these risks is in relation to reptiles raised as domestic animals (pets), there are also publications relating to wild species or those bred in captivity", Magnino said.
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.
The study has been published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology.