Can Kids Eat Rare Meat?

Children can go through stages that involve dietary choices based on current favorite foods. Although catering to a child's preferred culinary tastes from time to time may help keep the peace around the dinner table, compromising on the cooking temperatures for certain varieties of meat can result in food-borne illnesses 1. A meat thermometer can help minimize the risk of contamination.


Undercooked meat is a common cause of food poisoning. Meat can harbor various contaminants, such as parasites and bacteria. Pork, lamb and wild game are possible sources of toxoplasmosis, a parasite that also spreads through the handling of cat feces. Children who eat undercooked beef, pork and wild game may also be at a higher risk of developing worm infestations, such as:

  • trichinellosis
  • an infection caused by a roundworm,
  • taeniasis
  • an infection caused by a tapeworm

Rare beef may harbor the E. coli bacteria, a potential source of serious illness and even death in some cases.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Food poisoning can cause several symptoms, depending on the underlying cause. The symptoms usually include varying levels of digestive distress, including vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, fever may occur, and the diarrhea may be bloody or watery, accompanied by mild to severe abdominal cramping.

Age-Related Considerations

Food poisoning from undercooked meat can cause serious illness in individuals of all ages, but may be even more serious for young children. Children under the age of five years may become very sick from E. coli, due to the destruction of red blood cells and kidney damage. The diarrhea and vomiting that frequently accompany food poisoning can lead to rapid dehydration, a condition that can be especially dangerous for babies and young children.

Safe Cooking Temperatures

The safe preparation of meat involves cooking it to a minimal internal temperature, using a meat thermometer. The safe temperature for ground pork, beef, veal and lamb is 160 F, while roasts and steaks require an internal temperature of 145 F. Poultry should reach at least 165 F in order to reduce the risk of contamination due to bacteria and parasites.

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