If you’re reading The Daily Meal travel section, you probably think that eating food abroad is one of the most exciting things about traveling. However, it’s important not to get too excited, because some foods might keep you in your hotel room, or your hotel room bathroom, for days on end. There are few things worse than taking the money, energy, and time to plan a trip and having it be ruined by traveler’s diarrhea or other digestive ailments. Here are nine foods you should be careful of eating when you are traveling.
We took a look at our list of the 9 Foods Most Likely to Cause Food Poisoning and filtered it through the lens of travel, in addition to examining the CDC’s guidelines for travelers. Travel writer and founder of LegalNomads.com wrote a book called The Food Traveler's Handbook which was essential to our research. We highly recommend it to anybody who wants to eat adventurously on her or his travels while exercising a reasonable amount of vigilance.
While there is no surefire way to avoid getting sick from food, abroad or at home, there are certainly a few foods you should think twice before eating, such as raw or unpasteurized dairy products. Be especially careful of food in countries where filtered tap water is not available, as even a little bit of water that our bodies are not used to can wreak havoc. Something as innocuous as opening your mouth in the shower could lead to days of illness.
In suggesting that you should avoid these foods when you travel, especially when you're going to developing countries, we are not saying that the food in these areas is of lesser quality or that our food practices are any better. It is just that our American stomachs are more sensitive to certain microorganisms found in food and water abroad due to lack of exposure. Similarly, many ingredients in American food might not sit well with those trying it for the first time.
The only thing worse than getting sick when you travel would be not exposing yourself to the fantastic foods of the world, so while exercising caution, make sure not to get too paranoid.
As a rule, originally laid out by Jodi Ettenberg of LegalNomads.com, only eat fruits that have a thick layer of skin that you can peel away, such as bananas, oranges, or rambutans. That natural casing keeps the fruits fresh — but wash the exteriors thoroughly before peeling, or contaminants on the skins can find their way onto the fruit itself. Berries, strawberries, and apples, on the other hand, should be avoided, because these fruits are exposed to bacteria from the water they are washed in and the places where they are stored.
When food is frozen, melted a little, and then refrozen — as is the case with many frozen foods available the world over — it is more likely to develop harmful bacteria. This includes ice you might consider adding to your water or coffee. Be especially careful of this in countries where filtered water isn’t widely available. The good thing is that most other countries do not use as much ice as much as Americans, according to Smithsonian.com.