Food Safety When Traveling Internationally

Never eat salad ingredients that are unwashed or may have been washed in local water. If the water is contaminated, the food is contaminated too.

If you want to risk eating salad, thoroughly wash it yourself, using clean boiled and cooled water or bottled water.

Try to eat hot cooked meals where possible! Cooking makes the food hot, which kills most infections. Hot food means safe food – as long as it is fresh, hot and recently cooked.

• Don’t forget that hot food served on dirty plates and with dirty cutlery, or drinks made with local water, can all infect you.

12 tips for safe eating while traveling

How clean were the waiter’s hands when he handed you that bread roll?

Undercooked food is as dangerous and sometimes more dangerous than raw food.

Food Safety When Traveling Internationally Photo Gallery

Avoid re-heated or warmed food. Re-heating food creates the perfect breeding ground for infections. Some hotels prepare food then leave it sitting around for hours, if not days, and then re-heat it. Others cook food and leave it on display in a restaurant or buffet in barely warm food containers – all of which introduces infection and increases the risk of diners becoming ill. Try to avoid standing food. Aim to eat freshly cooked hot food.

If the conditions in the restaurant or dining room look less than clean, eat elsewhere.

• Some tropical fish contain high quantities of ciguatoxin, a harmful bio-toxin. Barracuda is apparently the worst, but it is also present in red snapper, grouper and amberjack. Unless they are tested, nobody knows how much ciguatoxin they contain, so be wary of exotic fish!

• If you are self-catering, be careful where you buy your food. They may claim it is pork, but it could be lizard or donkey! Worse, you don’t know where that apparent’ pork chop has been and how long it has been sitting there acting as an airfield for the local flies while it waits for you to buy it.

Food safety while travelling

If you buy fresh, try to buy things that you know are safe. Something that is wrapped by nature or a factory should be safe. A sack of local beans could be suspect. Baked beans in a can should be safe from contamination (assuming the can isn’t dented, past its sell-by date, rusty or pierced). An undamaged banana, orange or other fruit that has to be peeled should be safe because it was wrapped by nature.

Avoid washing anything that you eat whole, such as grapes! Try to avoid eating fruit that you can’t peel, or wash using safe bottled water.

Vegetables that need to be peeled and then cooked should be safe, because when the skin comes off most of the contaminants and potential infections are removed, and cooking kills almost anything else if you reach a high enough temperature.

At a restaurant, don’t be scared to ask to see the kitchens, especially if you will be eating there for the duration of your holiday. I have seen kitchens where I wanted to wipe my feet on the way OUT because they were so bad. Dirty walls and floors, windows open to flies, rodent droppings clearly visible, cockroaches wandering around. Pans, cookers and vents clogged with fat and grime, and cooked and raw food sharing the same cutting board. In one kitchen I saw a rat sitting behind a bin chewing on something! If it looks bad, avoid eating there and consider quietly warning others in your hotel about your concerns. Don’t make a fuss. Some owners have been known to take a kitchen knife to a tourist who speaks out about a dirty kitchen. Report any concerns to your holiday company and get their response in writing.

Even if you can’t see into the kitchen, if the rest of the place is overrun with flies, the kitchen probably will be too. Find somewhere else to eat.

Beware of rich foods, and exotic sauces and spices. They alone can be rich enough to upset a British stomach raised on burger and chips and an occasional roast potato or pork chop.

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