Food water safety tips for international travel

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Packaged food
Food that is dry and well packaged such as bread or cookies is usually safe, unless the packaging is not good. If the food has moisture, this can result in germs growing. Food in factory sealed containers like canned fish is safe as long as the packaging has not been tampered with.

Hot and well cooked food
Hot food especially if it is steaming hot is usually safe as the high temperature kills most germs, particularly those that can cause diarrhoea. However you should be wary if the food is allowed to sit in room temperatures for a long time, such as on a buffet, this can cause food contamination.

Raw, uncooked food
This is usually risky and should be avoided while traveling. This is especially true in sea food, raw meats and salads where finely cut fruits and vegetables are exposed to large surface areas making it vulnerable to infection by germs.

This refers to the local wild game such as monkeys, bats or rodents. This meat is usually not consumed in the US, so travelers should exercise caution while trying bushmeat.

Street Vendor food
Street food in developing countries is an attraction to the local food, however it should be consumed with caution. Street vendors will not adhere to the high hygiene standards as upscale restaurants and can expose their food to germs and bacteria. Please look out for the cleanliness of the vendor. The food is usually safe if it is steaming hot or straight off a grill.


Tap water
Tap water is usually unsafe in many parts of the world. You should be wary of drinking tap water, and try to avoid any swallowing of tap water while brushing your teeth or having a shower. It is advisable to brush your teeth with bottled water. Tap water can be disinfected by filter and boiling.

Bottled or canned drinks
Factory sealed bottles or cans are usually safe. Carbonated drinks like sparkling water or sodas are safest as the bubbles indicate proper sealing of the bottle or can. However in some nations, you can find bottles where even sealed water is not hygienic, as unscrupulous vendors can fill poor quality water in bottles that are ‘sealed’ to mimic a known brand or a factory seal.
While drinking directly from a can, it is prudent to wipe off the lip of the can before touching it with your mouth.

Drinks from a soda fountain
Sodas in a fountain are usually made by carbonating water and mixing it with a flavoured juice. If the water source is from a tap, these sodas should be avoided.

You should be wary of drinking milk that is in an open container and sitting in regular room temperature. This is true even if it is consumed in a limited quantity like in your coffee or tea. This is particularly true for older travelers, infants or pregnant women. It is safest to consume pasteurized milk from a sealed bottle.

Coffee, Tea and other Hot drinks
Hot drinks are safe if served steaming hot. While it safe to cool your drink before drinking it, you should be more careful if the drink is warm or at room temperature.

Good quality alcohol consumed in moderation is safe as the alcohol content usually kills any germs. Excessive alcohol during travel is definitely not safe, and any additions to the alcohol can make it unsafe. Drinks from a sealed bottle or can is generally safe. Be wary of consuming locally brewed alcohol unless it is from a reputed brand or source.

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