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Blood into food

Dec 24, 1996

Hi Doctor, I recently had dinner with a friend of mine. While cutting the meat into pieces before cooking it, she told me that she had cut her finger so that is why she had to put a plaster on it. According to the fact that her blood could have been mixed with the meat, how high is the risk of HIV-transmission in such a case ? Could cooking get rid of any risk ? Thanks a lot.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

In the 15-20 years that we have been studying this disease, there has never been a case of HIV transmission from food. This is for several reasons. First of all, the HIV virus will not live outside the body for more than a few minutes (assuming blood got into the food in the first place). Secondly, the heat from cooking food could make the virus die even faster. The longer the virus is outside the body, the weaker it gets, and the less the chance for transmission to occur. Once the virus dies, there is no chance of infection to occur. In places like restaurants, if blood were to get into food, by health code, the food must be thrown away immediately, further lessening the already low risk.

There's lots of data showing that the patterns of spread of diseases transmitted by food (like Hepatitis A or E. coli), is totally different from the pattern of spread of the HIV virus. Foodborne diseases tend to strike multiple people at one time, all of which ate the same meal at the same time. Foodborne diseases have a very distinct pattern of how they spread in a community. However, HIV only strikes people engaging in specific activities like sexual activities, needle sharing etc. There is absolutely no evidence that HIV has ever been transmitted via food anywhere in the world.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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