Ebola, Food Safety, and Public Health

Image Credit: © bradcalkins/Dollar Photo Club
Image Credit: © bradcalkins/Dollar Photo Club

Food safety has broad implications for public health. For U.S. consumers and the food industry alike, the current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa raises numerous questions. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published Q&As that address common concerns. By reading and sharing this information, healthcare workers can address misconceptions about how Ebola is transmitted.

For example, in the Q&As for Consumers section, the CDC explains that the Ebola virus is not spread by consuming food, with the possible exception of bushmeat. Part of people’s diets in developing regions of the world, bushmeat comes from bats, monkeys and other animals that aren’t typically part of Western cuisine. As the CDC notes, it’s illegal to import bushmeat into the U.S. and smugglers face stiff penalties.

Regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also protect consumers who buy imported meats, such as beef and pork, which are a regular part of the American diet. In addition, the CDC stresses the safety of domestically-produced foods. No one has been infected with Ebola by eating foods that were imported or smuggled, and no one has been infected by foods that were grown or produced domestically.

The CDC also provides Q&As for the Food Industry, which includes restaurants and food processors. To date, there is no evidence the Ebola virus has ever spread through food contaminated with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected food worker. If a worker exhibits the signs or symptom of Ebola, however, the individual and the employer should contact the state health department immediately.

Do the CDC’s Q&As for consumer and the food industry adequately address the concerns of healthcare workers? Will this information help you to assess and advise patients who have concerns about food safety and the Ebola virus?