Food safety when traveling internationally

Enjoy a safe and healthy vacation abroad with these tips for food and beverages.

It is the time of the year when you start planning your holiday vacation. Thinking about traveling abroad? You may want to take note of some food safety tips, especially if you are visiting developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, about one in 10 people are sickened by foodborne illness annually. Foodborne illness can result in hospitalization or even death. Foodborne illness tends to get severe in impoverished to low-income countries, which is attributed to unsafe water supply, poor personal hygiene and other conditions. As such, you should pay more attention to food safety when traveling to these destinations. Michigan State University Extension provides the following suggestions to help you prevent foodborne illness.


Choose hot food, dry or packaged food. High heat can kill germs that cause traveler’s diarrhea, so make sure to eat food that is thoroughly cooked and served hot. Be careful of food served at room temperature, which could be risky. Because most germs require moisture to grow, dry food is usually safe to consume. In addition, food from factory-sealed containers is usually safe as long as it is not opened and handled by another person. Raw fruit and vegetables can be safe as long as you carefully wash them.

Try to avoid raw food, such as prepared salad and raw meat. In addition, be cautious or avoid street food as these vendors may not have the same hygiene standards as restaurants. 


Safe beverages include bottled or canned drinks, hot drinks, pasteurized bottled or sealed milk and alcohol. When buying bottled drinks, be sure to check the bottle is properly sealed as dishonest vendors in some countries may sell tap water in bottles that are sealed with a drop of glue. If you choose to drink alcohol, try to avoid drinks served with ice, as the ice may be made from tap water. Try to avoid drinking tap water, fountain drinks, freshly squeezed juice, or ice. In most developing countries, tap water is not drinkable and needs to be boiled for consumption. If you washed the fruit in safe water and squeeze the juice yourself, drink up.

If you are interested in learning more about safe food practices, Michigan State University Extension offers various programs in food safety. 

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