Food poisoning and alcohol are linked. “Alcohol with a meal can lower the risk of food poisoning” reported the New York Times.1 Drinking with meals can either prevent food poisoning or reduce its effects.
Food poisoning appears to be much more common than most people realize. That’s because they often incorrectly attribute their symptoms to flu. More serious is the fact that food poisoning can be fatal.
Researchers analyzed an outbreak of gastroenteritis leading to diarrhea, vomiting and high fever. It was among those on a cruise ship. The study showed that the drinking of alcohol by many of the passengers had kept them from getting sick.2
A Spanish study examined an outbreak of acute salmonella gastric infection among people at a banquet. It found a strong link between alcohol and reduced food poisoning. The protective effect was strongest for those who had more than 40 grams of alcohol. Specifically, the attack rate was 95% for those who had not drunk alcohol. It was 78% for those who had drunk less than 40 grams. And it was 54% for those who had drunk more than 40 grams.3 So the more they drank, the less the infection rate.
A standard drink in the U.S. contains 14 grams of alcohol. Thus, three standard drinks would equal 42 grams of alcohol.
Researchers also studied an outbreak of illness caused by people eating contaminated oysters.
First, they controlling for potential confounders. Then they found a protective effect for beverages with an alcohol content over 10%. But none existed for beverages with less than 10% alcohol.4 Thus, the higher the alcohol level of the beverage, the more protective against food poisoning.
Laboratories also shows the ability of alcohol to kill food poisoning bacteria.5
Drinking alcohol increases the acidic content of the stomach. This helps kill bacteria that cause food poisoning in the body.
“THE BOTTOM LINE: Alcohol with a meal can lower the risk of food poisoning.”6
Resources: Food Poisoning and Alcohol
Clark, D. And Thatcher, F. (eds) Microorganisms in Foods. Toronto: U Toronto, 2019.
1. O’Connor, A. The claim. Drinking alcohol with a meal prevents food poisoning. The New York Times, Feb 15, 2005.
2. Ford, G. Gastro-Intestinal Problems. In: Ford, G. The Science of Healthy Drinking. San Francisco: WAG, 2003.
3. Bellido-Blasco, J., et al. The effect of alcoholic beverages on the occurrence of a Salmonella food-borne outbreak. Epidem, 2002, 13, 228-230.
4. Desenclos, J., et al. The protective effect of alcohol on the occurrence of epidemic oyster-borne Hepatitis A. Epidem, 1994, 3(4), 371-373.
5. Weisse, M., et al. Wine as a digestive aid. Comparative antimicrobial effects of bismuth alicylate and red and white wine. Brit Med J, 1995, 311, 1657-1660.
6. O’Connor, A. op cit.
This web site does not advice. That includes food poisoning and alcohol. For that, ask your doctor.