How to Avoid Getting Sick when Eating Overseas
Sampling authentic foreign cuisine can be an exciting and delectable experience for travellers; many make a point of experiencing a unique dish in each area they visit! However, our westernized-insides aren’t always up to the task; crops and dishes prepared with local ingredients can wreak havoc on some travellers’ digestive systems, triggering a host of intestinal problems politely referred to as ‘traveller’s tummy.’ Put simply, the difference between western food and its overseas counterparts lies in less stringent sanitation requirements and its cultivation using manure, a natural fertilizer which can easily spread harmful bacteria to crops and foods. High risk destinations include developing countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but wherever you’re headed, here are a few helpful guidelines for keeping your stomach contents down on your next vacation.
It should go without saying, but only eat food that has been well-cooked and is still hot when served. Though it may be a local delicacy, avoid uncooked seafood and especially shellfish. Try to avoid platters of cold meat and cheese, as you can’t be sure how long they’ve been sitting out. It’s also imperative to drink only bottled water and to not use ice; bacteria can often find its way into local water sources, so you should avoid using it when brushing your teeth as well. For added protection, ensure bottled water is sealed when served to you. Carbonated drinks and hot tea or coffee are generally safe, but avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables unless they’ve been peeled directly in front of you. Raw salads should be avoided at all costs as it’s highly unlikely that the lettuce will have been washed with bottled or boiled water. Lastly, unpasteurized milk, dairy products, mayonnaise and pastry icing also carry an increased risk of contamination.
Keep in mind that most reputable resorts will do everything they can to ensure the safety of their cuisine; these tips are geared more towards eating local cuisine when on tours or excursions. Salmonella, E.coli and the Rotavirus are among the most common sicknesses that travellers in these areas succumb to, but local inhabitants to these areas develop immunity due to constant, repeated exposure to the potentially-harmful organisms. Don’t let vendors in the area fool you into thinking their food is fine just because they can take a bite of it themselves! One questionable burrito can take days off your vacation, so it’s definitely not worth the risk if things look the least bit suspect. In general, practice caution and use your best judgment when dealing with high-risk foods to ensure a happy, healthy getaway.
This post was written and contributed by Jordan who writes about various travel related topics and highly recommends purchasing emergency travel insurance when going abroad.