How can you avoid food poisoning while traveling? Half the fun of traveling to exotic locations is sampling the local cuisine. It is good to experience the food and lifestyle of different cultures but if you are not careful you can end up with a bad case of food poisoning. The symptoms of food poisoning can include: diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue and the inability to keep food down. In the old days it was called Dysentery and was common in poor countries due to a lack of clean water sources and proper food handling. Although it is easy to cure most cases of food poisoning with a good antibiotic treatment, it is better to avoid a situation like this altogether.
Things to Do Before Setting Out:
The first thing to do when traveling through a new country is to search the Internet for good local restaurants and cafés with good reviews. Take a few minutes to Google some of the more popular restaurant review sites like Chowhound and Trip Advisor for your destination city. Read the reviews of other diners and see which places they recommend or did not recommend and why. It is worth taking a few extra precautions to avoid a bad case of food poisoning. Note the star rating given and the number of positive reviews, the more positive reviews the better the restaurant. Make a list of recommended restaurants and the addresses to take with you. You can get directions from the Concierge at your hotel or one of the locals.
Once You Have Arrived:
Pack some snacks in your suitcase or stop at a grocery store. You may or may not be able to bring food into some countries but if not you can always shop for a few basics once you land. Canned goods like soup, ravioli and tuna are good choices as well as a jar of peanut butter and box of saltines. If you purchase fresh fruits or vegetables be sure to wash them carefully before eating. Avoid food poisoning by choosing only fruits and vegetables with an outer peel that can be removed such as apples, oranges, bananas, melons, cucumbers, carrots and etc.
Purchase bottled water and drinks in cans or bottles. Do not order anything with ice in it. You may ask for a glass to be chilled in the cooler for a few minutes. Water is filtered and purified for drinking purposes in most countries but the water used to make the ice may not be.
Avoid Situations Where You Might Encounter Germs and Bacteria:
1. Avoid street vendors whenever possible. Although they may have the best smelling food imaginable, they may not have the best hygiene practices and may not be inspected for food safety. Stay away from tourist areas with small crowds. A good thing to do is to ask the people around you where they go to eat. Places that are frequented by the locals and draw big crowds of people are usually your best bet. Another choice is fast food restaurants if there is one close by.
2. When ordering food in a restaurant, ask for the meat to be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Hamburger, steaks and porch chops should be cooked thoroughly. Always ask for “well done”, even though you love a juicy steak medium rare now is not the time to take a chance. Check the meat before tasting to see that it is cooked through and no pink is visible to safely avoid food poisoning from salmonella and e coli.
3. Wash your hands before eating and order vegetables cooked or dishes that are baked. The temperature of the oven during baking will kill germs and bacteria that may be present. Some people like to bring their own plastic silverware when eating out than is discarded after the meal. Inspect your silverware and glasses for spots or dried food, when in doubt ask for a new set. If approached in a polite and respectful manner, most servers will not get upset or offended if you ask for a new fork or spoon.
4. Avoid fresh fish or seafood dishes. Never eat any raw or uncooked shellfish or exotic fish dishes. Certain dishes are considered a delicacy like eel, puffer fish, baby octopus or fried spiders. Every year travelers experience some type of food poisoning from uncooked or undercooked fish, avoid eating anything you are unsure of no matter how great it sounds.
What to Do If You Feel Sick:
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the symptoms noted above. A temperature above 102 degrees may mean your body is trying to fight off some type of infection. Visit the CDC website below for information and tips for travelers. Update your medical insurance or buy traveler’s insurance before leaving to be sure of having access to medical services out of the country. It is easy to avoid a case of food poisoning by taking a few steps to ensure the safety of the food you eat.
USA Today Travel: Travel Tips
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Traveler’s Health
WebEcoist: Deadly Delicacies: 10 Foods To Die For