Eating and drinking safely while traveling is essential to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. This guide outlines the importance of personal hygiene, safe drinking water practices, making informed choices about food and drink, and how to handle food-related illnesses when traveling.
Personal Hygiene: The Foundation of Food Safety
Personal hygiene plays a crucial role in minimizing the risk of travel-related illnesses. Prioritize handwashing with soap and water after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food. Be extra cautious if traveling with young children. Use disposable wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizers without clean water to maintain hygiene levels.
Ensuring Safe Drinking Water
Hydration is essential when traveling, but water safety should not be compromised. To ensure water is safe for drinking, adopt the following practices:
- Drink bottled water from a reliable source and check that the seal is intact.
- Use bottled water for brushing your teeth.
- Boil tap water to a rolling boil (where large bubbles are visible).
- Use a water purifier.
- Disinfect water with iodine-based drinking water tablets.
- Avoid ice cubes unless made from safe bottled water, as freezing water preserves bacteria.
Smart Eating and Drinking Choices
Make informed decisions about food and drink to protect yourself from foodborne illnesses:
- Opt for food cooked at high heat, which is generally safe.
- Be cautious of warm or room temperature food, such as buffets.
- Apply the same rule to hot drinks – steaming hot is preferable.
- Dry, packaged, and factory-sealed food (e.g., bread, potato chips, canned tuna) is usually safe if the packaging is intact.
- Avoid raw food, including cut-up fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, raw meat, and uncooked seafood, as they are more likely to contain harmful bacteria.
- Opt for steaming hot food straight off the grill when choosing street food.
- Pregnant individuals or those with weakened immune systems should avoid unpasteurized dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Managing Food-Related Illnesses
If you experience traveler’s diarrhea or food poisoning, follow these steps for recovery:
- Rest and stay hydrated with clean water or oral rehydration drinks.
- Use anti-diarrhea or anti-vomiting medication like loperamide-based medicines (e.g., Imodium).
- Gradually reintroduce simple foods like toast, crackers, bananas, and rice as your body recovers.
Top Ways to Prevent Foodborne Illness
Follow these guidelines to stay safe from foodborne illnesses:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Properly handle raw animal products to prevent cross-contamination.
- Clean and sanitize utensils, equipment, and surfaces.
- Use food before it expires.
- Keep animals away from food and food preparation areas.
By adhering to these food safety tips and maintaining good personal hygiene, travelers can minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses and enjoy a healthy journey.