Nutrition is important at the best of times, but when travelling, the food and drink you consume becomes even more crucial
We’re often reminded that we should be paying closer attention to the food and drink we consume, but in no situation is this truer than when travelling. In fact, depending on where you travel, the food and drink you consume can mean the difference between a happy, healthy holiday and an extremely serious (or even potentially fatal) health condition.
Some of the world’s most troublesome health conditions are passed on by food and drink, including traveller’s diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera. It’s therefore absolutely vital that travellers know what precautions to take when enjoying their time abroad. Luckily, we’re here to help. Here are our top tips for food and water safety when travelling.
The first step to handling food and drink appropriately when travelling abroad is ensuring you’re practising good hand hygiene. You should always try, where possible, to wash your hands before preparing food and eating. You should also be sure to always wash your hands after using the toilet. In certain areas, handwashing facilities may be limited, so it’s a good idea to carry handwipes or sanitising gel with you.
It’s also just as important to make sure the utensils you’re using are clean, too, including plates, cups and cutlery. If necessary, you can clean them thoroughly with alcohol wipes. If eating from a street vendor, always take caution. Make sure the food is freshly cooked to a high temperature and served quickly.
Any food you eat should be served piping hot and freshly prepared, including meat and vegetables. This food is usually safe. However, you should avoid food which has been left uncovered for any length of time, and you shouldn’t eat leftovers or reheated meat.
Fish and shellfish require even more caution, as they can be hazardous even if cooked thoroughly. Seek local advice about the best way to eat seafood, and if you’re in doubt about the safety of the seafood it’s best to simply avoid it.
When it comes to vegetables, only eat food which has been thoroughly cooked. Salads and fresh herbs are best avoided, and you should avoid buffet-style food wherever possible. You should also peel fruit, including tomatoes, and berries such as raspberries are best avoided as they can be a source of the Cyclospora parasitic infection.
You should be just as cautious with water as you are with food. Water can contain harmful microorganisms, chemical pollutants and even visible debris, all of which has the potential to make you seriously ill.
You should only drink water if you know it is pure. This also applies to water used to create ice cubes and water used for brushing your teeth. Avoid drinking tap water. Water which has been boiled, or which comes in a sealed bottle, is usually safe. You can also acquire water that has been chemically disinfected or passed through a high-quality filter.
Hot tea and coffee, beers, wines and spirits are also usually safe for drinking. Milk should be boiled unless you are certain is has been pasteurised, and fruit juice should be sourced from a carton as fresh fruit juice may be made with unwashed fruit. Keep these guidelines in mind during your travel experience, and you’ll be far more likely to remain healthy and happy throughout your stay.