This website claims that apple cider vinegar is a strong bactericide and is useful in alleviating food-poisoning illness by killing any and all ingested food-borne bacteria which release abhorrent toxins.

Does this claim have scientific merit? If so, does any type of vinegar work, and how much should be taken and at which time intervals?


I would be highly skeptical of this claim. The mechanism that this is supposed to work by is as some sort of antibacterial agent. Although, the mild acid in vinegar really is nothing compared to the acids that are already in your stomach. The main reason that vinegar is associated as a food poisoning remedy could be because vinegar is often used as a method of preserving food for longer periods (i.e. pickling).

Or as is mentioned at the Washington State University site

ORGANIC ACIDS: As you recall, all microbes require an #optimum pH or acidity in their environment to grow. If there is too much acid or base, a microbe will not grow. As the by-products of many microbial fermentations include the production of chemicals like ACETIC ACID (vinegar), LACTIC ACID, and PROPIONIC ACID it is not too surprising to find that humans, and other life, can actually use these substances as nutrients. However, when they are added to foods in sufficient quantities to lower the pH below that which will support the growth of most food-spoilage microbes, they can serve as natural food preservatives. Again, our ancestors recognized that "SPOILED" foods such as milk and certain vegetables, retained their nutrition upon becoming acidic and remained eatable (preserved) for long periods. Thus was born choice food items like yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, cheese and buttermilk. Artificial acids, like benzoic acid, inhibit the growth of some molds, thus it is added to breads and other bakery products that require long shelf live. In many foods, like the sauerkraut you made in lab, salt is combined with acids to preserve food.

This site from the University of Maryland Medical Center states

Apple cider vinegar is a traditional remedy that, although it has not been studied scientifically, may have some antimicrobial properties. Mix 2 tsp. in one cup warm water and drink several times a day.

BOTTOM LINE: No studies back it up, but there appears to be no harm in doing it as long as you dilute the vinegar.

Keep in mind, if someone has ingested a non-food poison, Poison Control Centers specifically state

Do not give salt, vinegar, citrus juice or induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by the Poison Control Center.

  • 2
    It also seems like there is probably a psychological component to this, as the provided anecdotes usually had people feeling ok within 10-15 minutes; probably not enough time for any appreciable antimicrobial action anyway. Another question I have though: Don't food poisoning "events" happen in your small and or large intestines? It seems that (in addition to the points you stated above) that there would really be nothing of the vinegar left to perform any action by the time it got to your small intestine. Aug 28 '11 at 16:07
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    Yes, I figure that the placebo effect is the primary thing going on. And in many cases, food poisoning only lasts about 12-24 hours, and amazingly, the people reporting on that woo-woo site felt better in 12-24 hours! What a coincidence! Aug 28 '11 at 16:44
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    Did you really mean "as a food poisoning allergy"?
    – Benjol
    Aug 2 '12 at 12:23
  • @Benjol no I didn't! thanks. Fixed it. Aug 2 '12 at 23:03

Vinegar is a potent antimicrobial agent. It can kill many of the most bacteria most commonly associated with food poisoning, including Salmonella, E. Coli, and Staphyloccus (Chang and Fang 2007; Rhee et al, 2003; Entani et al 1998; Wang et al 2011)

Most studies only address the direct effect of vinegar on pathogenic organisms, but do not address the effects of vinegar taken after infection.

  • It should be noted that the exposure time of bacteria to vinegar used in the study is relevant to its real-world applicability to, say, cleaning food preparation surfaces. Chang and Fang, for example, used a 5 minute exposure of vinegar which seems longer than what is practical for household cleaning. Rhee and Entani don't include exposure times in their abstracts, and Wang used 5, 10, and 30 minute exposures.
    – alx9r
    Jan 15 '13 at 7:16

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