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Depending on where you travel,  yummy looking food may be a ticket to intestinal trouble.  Be cautious when eating in "developing" countries.




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Travel Advice - What's safe to eat - where?

Food quality  is an important issue when traveling internationally.  Most developed countries have hygiene standards enforced at a governmental level, which helps to ensure the safety of food and drinking water in these countries.  Food and water consumption in developing countries can be a gamble; you should exercise selectivity when choosing the types of food to eat while traveling abroad.

Food cautions in developing countries

  • All “raw” food is subject to contamination. In areas where hygiene and sanitation are inadequate, avoid salads, uncooked vegetables, peeled fruits, un-pasteurized milk, and derivative products , such as cheese.
  • Eat  food that has been thoroughly cooked and is still hot.
    • If the food has been in a warming tray or possibly on the side of a grill for a time, ask for something freshly cooked.
  • Consume fruit that has been washed and peeled by you. If it came peeled, avoid the fruit due to possible contamination.
  • Undercooked food, raw meat, fish, and shellfish can carry various intestinal pathogens.
    • Consumption of these pathogens may result in intestinal discomfort or diarrhea.
    • In addition, some pathogens can be extremely toxic and even deadly to those travelers with liver disease or other diseases affecting the immune system
  • Cooked food which has stood for several hours can provide a fertile medium for bacterial growth. For this reason, consumption of food obtained from street vendors is associated with an increased risk of illness.
    • If you are going to eat food provided by street vendors (and we recommend that you do not) buy your food during in the midst of a high traffic period (e.g. lunch) as it is more likely that the food has not been on the grill or sitting in the sun for a long time.

When tempted by the local food, remember the following story passed to me by a good friend who had just returned from Morocco - this is not the way to spend your vacation!

“It has taken almost two weeks to rid ourselves of the affliction we picked up in Morocco, but it now seems to have literally passed through. We had tests this week and they found nothing. We think that it was the birthday cake provided so generously by the hotel on Monday evening to go with the champagne I ordered. Our last days in Morocco were spent in bed.”

See our companion article on "What's safe to drink during travel abroad?"

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