As delectable as pork momos are, inadequately cooked meat filling could be the reason you catch tapeworm infection of the brain, warn Indian scientists, who have taken science to kitchens by suggesting simple steps to improve the quality of northeast India’s traditional and much-loved product.

Momos, steamed or fried folded dough pressed around fillings of meat, condiments and vegetables, are ubiquitous in northeastern states and among the top pig-out foods in Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttarakhand.

“Whether they are served at local roadside stalls, dining places or high-end restaurants, they are one of the most famous delicacies for the public.

“But if the pork meat is not properly cooked through, it could heighten risk of occurrence of neuro-cysticercosis caused by pork tapeworm cysts (larvae),” R. Thomas, scientist at the ICAR-National Research Centre on Pig, Guwahati, Assam, told IANS.

Thomas said while Indian Council of Medical Research data suggests the incidence of neurocysticercosis had alarmingly shot up in the recent past, no uniformity exists in the manner in which pork momos are cooked across the region. In developing countries, neurocysticercosis is the most common parasitic disease of the nervous system and is the main cause of acquired epilepsy.

“In rural areas, we found the cooking was okay. Ideally, you should hold the temperature of the meat at 70 degrees centigrade for some time to ensure the cysts are inactivated. Also, the meat should be cooked before stuffing but in the fast food joints we observed, the meat stuffing is cooked together with the dough cover.

“While the dough is cooked in a few minutes, the meat remains undercooked,” explained Thomas.The study published in January in the Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge notes: “In 68 percent of the outlets, the core temperature of the meat pieces present in the momos was below 60 degrees centigrade even after cooking.”