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FDA: Eating doesn't spread the flu

May 11, 2009

Frequently asked questions about the 2009 H1N1 flu, answered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Can people get 2009 H1N1 flu virus by eating food products?

Influenza viruses are not known to be spread by eating food items. Influenza viruses are spread through inhalation or through touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

Could a sick restaurant worker transmit 2009 H1N1 flu virus to consumers in a restaurant or other food-service venue?

Transmission of the virus in a restaurant could occur through the normal routes of infection that could happen in any public or private setting -- inhalation of the virus expelled by infected individuals when coughing or sneezing and by touching any surface that is contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

Also, in accordance with long-standing FDA recommendations, food workers experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness should not work with exposed food, clean equipment, utensils, linens or unwrapped single-service or single-use articles.

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Should individuals or restaurants alter cooking methods to decrease the risk of H1N1 flu virus?

It is not necessary to alter cooking times or temperatures for any food products in order to reduce chances of contracting H1N1 flu virus, because eating food is not a known method of transmission of influenza viruses.

What can an individual do to reduce the chances of contracting H1N1 flu virus?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two important ways to reduce the chance of contracting H1N1 flu virus are appropriate hand washing and avoidance of touching the mouth, nose or eyes.

For more detailed information and recommendations, see the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web page on H1N1 flu at www.fda.gov/h1n1flu/default.htm .

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