Bacon is salt-cured pork belly that’s served in thin strips.
Similar cuts of meat can be made from beef, lamb, and turkey. Turkey bacon is a well-known example.
Because bacon is cured like pre-cooked deli ham, you may wonder whether it’s safe to eat raw.
This article explains whether you can eat raw bacon.
Is it safe to eat?
Consuming undercooked or raw meat of any kind increases your risk of foodborne illness, otherwise known as food poisoning.
That’s because these meats may harbor harmful viruses, bacteria, and parasites (1).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that each year, 48 million people in the United States get food poisoning, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die (
Common foodborne illnesses linked to undercooked or raw pork include (6):
- Toxoplasmosis. While the parasite behind this condition is relatively harmless to most people, it can endanger those with weakened immune systems.
- Trichinosis. This disease is caused by a species of parasitic roundworms that can trigger diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, and eye swelling.
- Tapeworms. These parasitic worms live in your intestines and can cause abdominal pain, weight loss, and intestinal blockages.
You can kill these parasites and reduce your risk of food poisoning by cooking bacon properly.
Eating raw bacon can increase your risk of foodborne illnesses, such as toxoplasmosis, trichinosis, and tapeworms. Therefore, it’s unsafe to eat raw bacon.
Other health concerns
Consuming processed meats like bacon is linked to an increased risk of cancer, specifically of the colon and rectum.
Another review backed this finding, linking processed meat intake to colorectal cancer (
For example, nitrites and nitrates, which are added to processed meats like bacon to prevent spoilage and preserve color and flavor, can form nitrosamines in your body. These harmful compounds are carcinogenic (
A high intake of processed meats, including bacon, is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Thus, it’s recommended to moderate your intake.
How to cook bacon safely
Handling and cooking bacon properly are the best ways to reduce your risk of food poisoning.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandates that bacon packages include safe handling instructions to protect against foodborne illness (18).
Be sure to keep raw bacon separate from other foods and wash work surfaces, utensils, and your hands after handling it.
Furthermore, it’s recommended to cook pork products to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (62.8°C). Since it can be difficult to determine bacon’s temperature due to its thinness, it’s best to cook it until crisp (4, 19).
You can cook it in an oven, microwave, or skillet or pan on the stove.
Interestingly, one study showed that well-done or burnt bacon may be more hazardous than less well-done bacon due to its increased content of nitrosamines. Microwave cooking seems to lead to less of these harmful compounds than frying (20).
It’s vital to properly handle and cook bacon to prevent foodborne illness and reduce the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines.
The bottom line
Bacon is salt-cured meat cut from pig belly.
It’s unsafe to eat this popular breakfast item raw due to an increased risk of food poisoning.
Instead, you should cook bacon thoroughly — but be careful not to overcook it, as doing so can increase the formation of carcinogens.
It’s healthiest to limit your consumption of bacon and other processed meats.