Kangaroos are harvested as game meat, with the product also sometimes termed ‘wild-game meat’. It is well recognised that game meats frequently cause illness in consumers, especially when care has not been taken to eviscerate and handle carcasses in a hygienic way.
As wild-caught animals, kangaroos carry parasites and diseases that may threaten human health.
There are risks of kangaroo meat contamination including:
It is not possible to farm kangaroos as they are wild and not domesticated and are not easily able to be handled. Kangaroos are shot in the wild and are eviscerated in the open where access to potable water and proper sanitation is limited. As a result, contamination of kangaroo meat is unavoidable. Kangaroo meat is not routinely tested for parasites and zoonotic pathogens such as Toxoplasma gondii, which has been recognised as a serious long-term human health risk. Kangaroos may be hosts for harmful nematodes such as Globocephaloides trifidospicularis, which consumes intestinal mucosa and blood of kangaroos causing mortality.
There have been various instances of E. coli and Salmonella contamination of kangaroo meat products over the past 50 years. For example, in 2018 Salmonella was found in kangaroo meat in the Netherlands and removed from supermarket shelves. Russia banned contaminated kangaroo meat imports in 2009, 2012 and again in 2014. Despite significant government assistance, the commercial kangaroo industry is failing to maintain proper and consistent meat hygiene for the production of kangaroo meat.
The commercial killing of kangaroos raises the potential threat to human health. Kangaroos can suffer from mass mortality events from an unidentified pathogen. The majority of human infectious diseases, especially recently emerging pathogens, originate from animals, and ongoing disease transmission from animals to people presents a significant global health burden. Diseases that pass between humans and animals are called Zoonotic diseases and are reported to be the leading cause of new diseases in humans. Human health considerations are of paramount importance given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on human health and the world economy.
Zoonotic diseases that originate in animals and are largely the result of anthropogenic drivers such as biodiversity loss, climate change, habitat destruction, land use change, intensive farming, diminished ecosystem function and increasing human population density.
This matters because human and wildlife health is intertwined. The wildlife trade is conducted in conditions that creates the risk of disease transmission with significant impacts to human health risks.