Thai Government Warns of HIV in Canned Foods-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

Government officials in Thailand have warned that an unidentified militant group contaminated canned foods with HIV.

The Truth:

Rumors about canned food contaminated with HIV in Thailand were debunked years ago, but they went viral again on social media as 2016 came to a close.

It’s not clear where, exactly, rumors about canned foods contaminated with HIV came from, but they spread quickly across social media. A post that was widely circulated on Twitter warned:

Radio 1 FM announced that Thai govt confirmed: Emergency notification: Do NOT eat canned food especially those canned fruits manufactured in Thailand. There were 200 over HIV carriers instructed by their leader to contaminate the products of the canned food factory with 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 such as loggan, lychee, rambutan and mango putting had been removed from the shelves of supermarkets. Please send GC to people you care. Prevention is better than cure! Please don’t take canned food from Thailand.

We couldn’t find any credible reports of canned food contaminated with HIV. In fact, we found a press release issued by the Royal Thai Embassy in October 2014 that specifically debunked the warning:

Related to the recent spread of rumours circulated via text messages alerting recipients that canned food, particularly canned fruits, manufactured in Thailand were contaminated with HIV virus.

The Embassy wishes to inform that the circulated message is a hoax with no credible evidences to support such accusation. Related Thai agencies, including the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and Food and Drug Administration of Thailand, had announced that Thai canned products have been thoroughly inspected and are certified according to international standards (GMP and HACCP) before the products could be shipped out. In fact, the heat treatment during the processing method will eliminate all harmful microbes and other viruses that may existed. Moreover, HIV virus needs a human host cell to live and it does not live long outside the human body. Therefore, it is not possible that canned products are contaminated with HIV as claimed. In a separate statement, Mr. Roy Sparringa, head of Indonesian Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) also said that ‘the message is not true, have long been circulated, and misleading’ and confirmed that BPOM has never found the said contamination.

The message may aims to discredit the Thai food exporter and Thai canned fruits industry. Similar messages were also circulated in Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia in 2013.

Warnings about food contaminated with HIV aren’t necessarily new, either. We previously investigated false reports that blood oranges from Libya had been injected with HIV infected blood and that bananas purchased at Walmart stores had been tainted with HIV infected blood.

These warnings appear to prey on people’s fear of contracting HIV. However, it would be nearly impossible to contract HIV from blood injected into a fruit because the virus depends on a human host for survival, the non-profit group Aid for AIDs reports:

“HIV is a very fragile virus outside of the body. The HIV virus needs the human body as its host. The life span of HIV outside of the body has not been determined. However, we know that HIV needs its host cell (a human), the body temperature, and the chemistry of the blood to survive. Out of the body, HIV is out of its environment. As the blood dries, the HIV will die. In areas like a syringe or on a razor in a medicine cabinet, HIV would probably live longer because of less airflow and it’s a more moist temperature controlled area.

“Just remember, outside of the body HIV can’t survive. In minutes it will die and be harmless, but Universal Precautions should always be used.”

All of these warnings about HIV-infected blood in foods are baseless and should be ignored.

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

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