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Public Health Rep. 2004 Jul-Aug; 119(4): 427–434.
PMCID: PMC1497653

A review of outbreaks of foodborne disease associated with passenger ships: evidence for risk management.


OBJECTIVE: Foodborne disease outbreaks on ships are of concern because of their potentially serious health consequences for passengers and crew and high costs to the industry. The authors conducted a review of outbreaks of foodborne diseases associated with passenger ships in the framework of a World Health Organization project on setting guidelines for ship sanitation. METHODS: The authors reviewed data on 50 outbreaks of foodborne disease associated with passenger ships. For each outbreak, data on pathogens/toxins, type of ship, factors contributing to outbreaks, mortality and morbidity, and food vehicles were collected. RESULTS: The findings of this review show that the majority of reported outbreaks were associated with cruise ships and that almost 10,000 people were affected. Salmonella spp were most frequently associated with outbreaks. Foodborne outbreaks due to enterotoxigenic E. coli spp, Shigella spp, noroviruses (formally called Norwalk-like viruses), Vibrio spp, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, Cyclospora sp, and Trichinella sp also occurred on ships. Factors associated with the outbreaks reviewed include inadequate temperature control, infected food handlers, contaminated raw ingredients, cross-contamination, inadequate heat treatment, and onshore excursions. Seafood was the most common food vehicle implicated in outbreaks. CONCLUSIONS: Many ship-associated outbreaks could have been prevented if measures had been taken to ensure adequate temperature control, avoidance of cross-contamination, reliable food sources, adequate heat treatment, and exclusion of infected food handlers from work.

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Selected References

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