“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.“
Travel Food Safety Tips
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 have numerous bouts of traveler’s diarrhea (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 follow these simple travel food safety tips:
Travel Food Safety Related Tips
Hopefully, like me, most other Fifty Plus Nomads will experience fewer food safety problems the longer they 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 while 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, attracting all kinds of unpleasant microbes.
- Do not 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 many others have not had problems with the food in the past. It is an excellent sign if many families or seniors are 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. (In Mexico this is, for example, ice is seldom a problem anymore because most people buy gallons of water and use this water to make ice cubes). To find out if the water is safe in your destination, ask around, check internet advice, or consult the World Trips website.
- At a restaurant or food kiosk, check to ensure 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, and plates. 3)The food workers are clean, and 4) if you can see the kitchen prep area, check if they use gloves/tongs and the food looks fresh.
- In Third World Countries, check for packaged food alterations. Occasionally vendors add water to drinks. Altered bottles open too quickly or are loose. (Much less common than 20 years ago). Also, check to see if the food is expired. Watch out; the date on the package may reflect the packing date rather than the “best by” date.
- Wash fruit in bottled water when the water from the faucet is not potable. Please note that many places like Mexico use bottled water to clean fruit. 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. In a tropical climate, drink water whenever you drink 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 about making sure that your hands are clean. Use hand sanitizers frequently, especially after handling money.
Want More Travel Food Safety Tips?
Check out this post from Eat Right.