This story was first published on October 28, 2013
According to a message that has circulated via text messages and social media posts since around August 2013, consumers should avoid eating canned fruit from Thailand because it may be contaminated with HIV. The message claims that more than 200 people with HIV were instructed by an unidentified “leader” to contaminate products in a Thai canned food factory by dripping their blood into the cans.
The message further claims that the Thai Government’s Ministry of Health has confirmed the contamination story.
However, the claims in the would-be warning are utter nonsense. There are no credible reports that confirm the claims in the message. Moreover, far from confirming the story, the Thai Government has in fact denied any such incident and debunked the rumours as false.
And, in any case, the claims have no scientific credibility whatsoever. HIV cannot live very long at all outside of the body. Thus, even if a person with HIV had dripped blood into a food product during the canning process, there is virtually no chance that a person who later ate the product would be infected. In an article about HIV transmission, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes:
You can’t get HIV from consuming food handled by an HIV-infected person. Even if the food contained small amounts of HIV-infected blood or semen, exposure to the air, heat from cooking, and stomach acid would destroy the virus.
The CDC further explains:
HIV does not survive long outside the human body (such as on surfaces), and it cannot reproduce outside a human host.
In fact, the false warning is just one in a series of HIV and AIDS related Internet hoaxes that have circulated for years on end. This version of the hoax is reminiscent of another widespread – and equally untrue – rumour that claimed that a worker had deliberately contaminated various Pepsi products by adding HIV infected blood at a bottling plant. And another variant that has circulated since 2006 falsely claimed that a child had died of AIDS after eating takeaway food that contained blood from a cook with HIV. An even earlier version made the false claim that HIV contaminated blood was being deliberately added to ketchup containers in fast-food restaurants.
And, related rumours have claimed that sinister gangs have been placing HIV contaminated syringes under petrol pumps, on theatre seats and in other strange places. These rumours also have no substance.
Spreading such lies serves only to cause confusion and alarm and give fuel to the damaging myths that have long circulated about HIV and AIDS. If you receive one of these HIV related hoaxes, please do not pass it on to others. And please take the time to let the sender know that the information in the message is invalid.
Examples of the hoax message:
Radio 1 FM announced that Thai Govt. confirmed:
Emergency notification: Do NOT eat canned food especially those canned fruits manufactured in Thailand . There were over 200 HIV carriers instructed by their leader to contaminate the products of the canned food factory by their blood. The information was confirmed by the government this morning. In order not to let the people get infected
Please do not buy any canned fruits such as rambutans, longan, lychee, puddings and so on from Thailand. More than 200 HIV patients were ordered by their leaders to drip their blood into the canned foods. According to the Thai Government, its Ministry of Health has confirmed this and withdrew canned food. Please share this with family and friends.
Try not to eat canned food especially those canned fruits manufactured from thailand . There were 200 over HIV carriers instructed by their leader to contaminate the products of the canned food factory by their blood.
The information was confirmed by the government this morning. In order not to let the people get infected after eating, many types of canned food had been removed from the shelves of the supermarkets.such as longgan, lychee, rambutan and mango pudding. Pls send to people you care. Prevention is better than cure! Pls don’t buy canned food from thailand.