¨Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.¨
My Food-Safety Related Experiences
After spending almost twelve years on the road, my stomach seems to have absorbed so many different microbes that I rarely get diarrhea or other food-borne illnesses. I used to, however, have numerous bouts of Delhi Belly or Montezuma’s Revenge.
There is nothing more frustrating on the road. (I once threw up and had nasty diarrhea simultaneously in the back seat of a cab in Mumbai). Therefore, I highly recommend that Fifty-Plus Nomads do their best to ensure that their food is safe.
Food Safety Related Tips
Hopefully, like me, most other Fifty-Plus Nomads food safety will become less of a concern the longer you travel.
Nonetheless, here are some of my best (and other travel experts) tips for avoiding food safety issues that you should always consider even if you have an iron stomach:
- Eat in a busy place, at the same time that locals eat. Otherwise, you may be eating food that is not fresh.
- Exercise caution when eating at buffets, even at higher-end restaurants. The food at buffets is often left out for hours which can attract all kinds of unpleasant microbes.
- Don’t be afraid to send back food if it is only lukewarm. Heat kills the most dangerous microbes.
- Street food can be safe if there is a line of people. The line means that food moves fast and that lots of others have not had problems with the food. It is a particularly good sign if there are a lot of families or seniors in line. If the food is safe for children and seniors, it is safe for everyone.
- Avoid ice and water in cheaper, local-oriented restaurants, unless it is typically safe in your destination. To find out if the water is safe in your destination, ask around, check internet advice or consult the Can I Drink the Water website. (In Mexico this is, for example, seldom a problem anymore because most people buy gallons of water and use this water to make icecubes).
- At a restaurant or food kiosk check to make sure that: 1) food is handled separately from money and ingredients are separate from each other (i.e., raw meat next to tortillas), 2) the tables, silverware, plates. The food workers themselves, etc. are clean and 3) if you can see the kitchen prep area, check if they use gloves/tongs and that the food looks fresh.
- In Third World (Emerging Countries), check to see if a packaged food is altered. Occasionally vendors add water to drinks. You can tell if it is altered if the bottle opens too quickly or is loose. (Much less common than 20 years ago). Also, check to see if the food is expired. Watch out, occasionally the date on the package reflects when the food was packaged rather than the best by date.
- Avoid fruit that cannot be peeled if the water is not usually safe. Please note that a lot of places like Mexico use bottled water often to clean fruit etc. Eat fruit in season. It is fresher, safer, and better tasting.
- If you get diarrhea, eat bread and use oral rehydration salts. Drink lots of bottled water, sports drinks, and decaffeinated tea.
- If you are dehydrated, place water with ice (as cold as possible) in a pitcher and pour it over yourself. (Note: Alcohol is dehydrating. Always, in a tropical climate, drink water along with alcoholic drinks).
- Be careful if you are at a high altitude. Altitude sickness can be brutal. Take it easy, eat easy to digest foods, and, if necessary, ask for some oxygen.
- Be even more vigilant than normal about making sure that your hands are clean. Use hand sanitizers frequently, especially after handling money.
Want More Information About Food Safety?
Check out this post from Eat Right.
Some Additional Food-Related Posts
- Top 7 Budget Travel Food TipsSome of my favorite food-related experiences were also very inexpensive. Sometimes, modest hole in the walls restaurants, kiosks, and street carts can feature some of the country’s best chefs.
- 12 Top Restaurant TipsHere are the Fifty Plus Nomad’s top twelve tips for finding a good restaurant, avoiding problems with your bill, and tipping appropriately.
- Top 11 Food Safety TipsNothing can ruin your Fifty-Plus Nomad adventures faster than diarrhea, parasite, or other food-borne illness. Read here to discover 11 tips to avoid food safety problems. Hopefully, like me, you’ll find that you have fewer food-related problems as you travel for more time.
- 24 Top Food Tips for TravelersDiscover tons of tips for finding authentic food while traveling. Learn about some of my favorite dishes and drinks.