Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
On-line version ISSN 1680-5348
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
FERRARI, Carlos K. B. and TORRES, Elisabeth A. F. S.. Viral contamination of food products: a poorly understood public health problem. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1998, vol.3, n.6, pp.359-366. ISSN 1680-5348. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891998000600001.
Throughout the world there have been several epidemics of food-borne diseases (FBD) about which there is lack of sufficient information for public health institutions to take appropriate measures. This study was conducted for the purpose of contributing to the dissemination of information on these diseases and their etiologic agents, epidemiology, and control. The study was based on data from 61 sources, including review articles, reports of outbreaks, and databases. Results reveal considerable underregistration and lack of data on FBD throughout the various countries, with viruses being the second most important cause of FBD in the United States of America. Two agents, Norwalk virus and hepatitis A virus, were the fifth and sixth most frequent causes, respectively, although the former was the single most frequent cause of FBD in 1982 and the second most frequent cause of water-borne diseases during the period from 1986 to 1988. Despite the scarcity of information on the problem, rotavirus, poliovirus, hepatitis E virus, astrovirus, and small gastroenteric viruses are also important causes of FBD. We also discuss the importance of viral zoonoses, especially hemorrhagic fevers transmitted by contact with rodent feces and tick-borne viral encephalitides (Lassa fever). There is discussion of the controversial mad cow disease and its potential transmission through food products, as well as of dietary aspects of the management of AIDS and other viral infections. Finally, measures for the prevention and control of FBD are described.