Foodborne illnesses are a health concern everywhere. They are especially a concern when traveling abroad, though. When you are traveling to a different country, ask yourself: Are restaurants selling food that you can trust? Should I buy bottled water? Unclean food and water can cause travelers diarrhea and other diseases, plus a very unpleasant trip. But don’t panic, just be prepared. The good news is that there are easy steps you can take to help prevent food poisoning abroad:
1. Know what is in your food. Food preparation and manipulation are key factors in the development of foodborne diseases. Whether you are buying food ingredients or ready-to-eat food, know what you are buying. If language is a barrier, look for someone that can be your shopping partner. Learning about a particular food culture in advance can help you understand typical dishes and their ingredients.
2. Play safe with bottled water. Drink water and other beverages that are bottled and sealed (carbonated is safer). Buy water that has been disinfected (boiled, filtered, treated). Only use ice made with bottled or disinfected water. Avoid tap or well water, fountain drinks and ice or drinks made with tap or well water (such as reconstituted juice).
3. Avoid foods that are linked to food poisoning. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, foods that are unsafe to eat for the international traveler include: flavored ice pops; unpasteurized dairy products; foods from street vendors; bushmeats (monkeys, bat or other local wild game); food served at room temperature; raw or undercooked meat or fish; raw or soft cooked eggs; unwashed or unpeeled raw fruit and vegetables; and salads.
4. Stick to what´s safer to eat. Pasteurized dairy products such as milk, dry food like bread or crackers, hot coffee or tea, hard-cooked eggs, food that is cooked and served hot, meat that is cooked all the way through, food from a factory sealed package or container and fruit and vegetables you have washed in clean water or peeled are safer to eat.
5. If you choose to eat street food, be careful. Talk to the locals and ask for references to find out which vendors are most reliable. Observe general cleanliness. For example, avoid carts where the same person serving food is handling money. Choose from vendors that have a lot of customers where your chances of getting “expired” food decreases. Apply the same rules to carts as you do to other food. For example, if you watch something coming straight off the grill (cooked and hot) it´s safer than a raw salad at room temperature.
Read more on how to reduce the risk of food poisoning when traveling abroad.
Romina Barritta de Defranchi, DTR, is based in Argentina. She is a Stone Soup blogger and author of GlobalDietitians.com.