The Federal Health Office has warned pregnant women not to eat raw or undercooked meat as part of an effort to crack down on the toxoplasmosis parasite.
In a change of policy, the authorities have come out against systematic screening for the parasite, since infection is in any case irreversible. Currently 90 per cent of pregnant women are tested.
Infection during pregnancy can be transferred to the foetus. In rare cases this can lead to eye inflammation and brain damage in the child although few healthy people develop serious symptoms.
Latest studies indicate that only four children are born with the symptoms in Switzerland each year – many fewer than previously supposed.
Instead of screening, the health office is encouraging women to wash hands and utensils thoroughly after dealing with raw meat.
Close to 11 per cent of people in the United States aged 6-49 carry the parasite while over 80 per cent of Dutch, Brazilians and Germans have it, according to a Dutch study.
The microscopic parasite is most often found in cats, which acquire it when they eat the faeces of an infected animal.