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Public Health Focus

Questions on 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus and Food

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Influenza is not known to be spread through consumption of a food item. However, 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.

In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals experiencing symptoms of 2009 H1N1 flu virus stay home from work.

Q: Should individuals or restaurants alter cooking methods to decrease the risk of 2009 H1N1 flu virus?
It is not necessary to alter cooking times or temperatures for any food products in order to reduce chances of contracting 2009 H1N1 flu virus, because eating food is not a known method of transmission of influenza viruses.

Q: What can an individual do to reduce the chances of contracting 2009 H1N1 flu virus?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two important ways to reduce the chance of contracting 2009 H1N1 flu virus are appropriate hand washing and avoidance of touching the mouth, nose, or eyes. For more detailed information and recommendations, see the CDC Web site