By: Pooja Sharma
Nothing can spoil the relaxation and fun of traveling as much as health problems, such as food poisoning. In the United States, 1 in 6 Americans fall ill each year due to foodborne illnesses. The most common foodborne illness is norovirus, followed by Salmonella, Campylobacter and Clostridium Perfringens. All of them knock the door with the same symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Maintaining a healthy diet and being wary of what you put inside your body is very important. Here are top 7 tips that you should follow to avoid poisoning while traveling:
#1 Research Rigorously
Not all the countries have same regulations and food practices as the United States country does. Therefore, it becomes increasingly important to research your destination’s food regulations and practices. Not all countries require the same freezing temperatures for seafood as FDA does. So, it becomes important to know what kind of meat or fruits or imported foods are safe to get your hands on. The WHO African and South East Asian regions are the most affected by foodborne illnesses. They are not only highest in the number of sickened people each year, but have the maximum number of deaths, too. The United States, Canada, Australia, Northern and Western Europe, Japan, and New Zealand are some of the least affected countries by food poisoning. On the other hand, Central and South America, Mexico, Africa, and The Middle East are the most different countries when it comes to providing food safety alike to those of the United States.
#2 Tag Along With Locals
Locals are humans too, and naturally, they don’t like falling sick. Locals have a much higher knowledge of where the food delivers high quality and freshness. This rule especially applies if you want to try out street food. Street food vendors or restaurants that are locals’ favorite will definitely be a safer choice. And since there are a high number of people dining, the likeliness of fresh food being served increases automatically.
#3 Keep Away From Uncooked Foods
You should always avoid uncooked food — especially uncooked eggs, meat, and seafood. You should also not eat foods that are semi-cooked or not steamed at a high temperature. According to CDC, eating raw or undercooked meats is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness in the world. Eating from local markets is also not always acceptable because they don’t have the proper guidance on how to cook the meat properly. You should always look for restaurants that follow certain rules when it comes to handling meat. Ask questions if you are not 100% sure whether the place is safe for you or not.
#4 Be Wary of Dairy
Dairyborne illnesses include: E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, allergies, etc. According to one study by CDC, dairy ranked highest in the commodities that cause foodborne illnesses and ranked even higher than seafood or meat. Among dairy, the most unsafe products are milk and cheese. Unpasteurized milk and milk products such as soft cheeses can further fuel up the possibility of contamination. Dairy contains live bacteria, so it is very important that you know if the milk, cheese, etc. are safely stored, produced and sold in order to avoid any complications later.
#5 Steer Clear of Tap Water
Always go for packaged and bottled water when you are traveling. Make an exception only if you are completely sure that the water is properly sterilized. When you buy packaged water, check if the seal is intact and not broken, some vendors fill up the bottle with unsafe water. If for some reason you can’t find safe water, boiling your water for 3 minutes can get rid of most of the pathogens in it. Water is home to many parasites, bacteria,and viruses and can carry with it diseases such as: typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, etc. Avoiding ice and juices from open street vendor is a good idea, too. You never know if the water they have used is safe or not. If you are buying local fruits or vegetables, wash them with fresh water before consuming them.
#6 Watch for Food Hygiene Practices
Before dining, always have a word with the owner or the chef on food practices that concern you. Ask them if the ice they used in drinks is from tap water or purified water, if they use raw seafood in sushi or not, whether they keep their fresh vegetables or fruits separated from raw meat, etc. Sometimes, juices from raw meat contaminated with pathogens or bacteria can contaminate fresh produce and vegetables and fruits used in salads are not washed. So, the
last one is an important one. Don’t visit any restaurant at odd hours, as they may serve you leftover produce. Foods kept at unsafe temperature can easily harbor pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses.
#7 Opt For Freshly Cooked and Hot or Steamed Foods
It doesn’t matter whether you are dining in a fancy high end restaurant or trusting with your meal on a street vendor, ALWAYS look for cooked foods that are not reheated and made from scratch. There are some countries in which people love to indulge in street foods rather than restaurants. Clearly, in places like these street food is much safer than restaurant foods. So, in countries such as Thailand, India, Mexico, etc., look for busy street food vendors to indulge
yourself and avoid empty high end restaurants. At food stalls you also have an added advantage of witnessing yourself whether or not the food is made from scratch and cooked to an appropriate temperature.
What if I still fall ill?
The best way to deal with food poisoning while traveling is to stay hydrated and stick to bland and safe foods. Go for fresh fruit juices (accept apple juice), coconut water, Gatorade, and lots of water. It’s very necessary that you get these electrolyte rich fluids. Next, add probiotic foods or probiotics to your diet. They will help promote good bacteria and help the body to deal with the pathogen fast. Rest and seek medical attention if you notice signs of dehydration like: dry lips, dizziness, or if your diarrhea is bloody or symptoms last for more than 2 days.
Last and a very important tip would be to wash your hands before eating your food. You don’t want to contaminate your own food. Keep an alcoholic-based sanitizer with you always.