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One of the pleasures of travel is enjoying the local cuisine. On the other hand, travellers diarrhoea, Giardia, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E, typhoid fever, cholera...all these infections and more can come from consuming contaminated food and drink.

The first important preventative measure is to be meticulous with your own personal hygiene when travelling in less developed countries. Bacteria can be carried to the mouth on hands and cutlery, always wash your hands before eating and avoid putting fingers and thumbs anywhere near your mouth.

The second important measure is to be selective in what you eat and drink. You cannot avoid risk altogether, but you can at least avoid the obvious sources of trouble. Here are some general 'do's and don'ts.

One of the pleasures of travel is enjoying the local cuisine. On the other hand, travellers diarrhoea, Giardia, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E, typhoid fever, cholera...all these infections and more can come from consuming contaminated food and drink.

The first important preventative measure is to be meticulous with your own personal hygiene when travelling in less developed countries. Bacteria can be carried to the mouth on hands and cutlery, always wash your hands before eating and avoid putting fingers and thumbs anywhere near your mouth.

The second important measure is to be selective in what you eat and drink. You cannot avoid risk altogether, but you can at least avoid the obvious sources of trouble. Here are some general 'do's and don'ts'.

Drinking

Do Drink:

  • Boiled water is safe. You do not need to boil it for minutes as was once said. Just bringing it to the boil
    will kill most organisms.
  • Bottled water is usually safe but do check that the seal is unbroken, as refills from the tap are not unknown!
  • Purified Water Modern water purifiers such as the Pur Voyageur are transportable and very effective. Used correctly, they will eliminate any organic material and organisms from water and render it about as safe as you can possibly get.
  • Chemically disinfected water The simplest way to do this is to use iodine-based tablets drinking water tablets, which are added to water before drinking. The instructions must be followed correctly. You cannot rely on these to work if the water is cloudy or contaminated with organic material such as leafy matter. Only a water purifier could render such water drinkable.
  • Cans of soft drink, especially international brands, are low risk. Local beer is similar in risk.
  • Wine and spirits are usually imported and safe but do not order your whisky 'on the rocks', as ice is to be avoided. (And no, the alcohol will not kill the germs in the ice!)

Do Not Drink:

  • Any other water. Presume all other sources of water are contaminated. This includes brushing the teeth. Use bottled water for this.
  • Ice. Freezing preserves germs; it does not kill them.

Eating

Do not eat:

  • Uncooked, undercooked food or reheated food
  • Marinated raw fish is commonly consumed as sushi in Japan, cerviche and tiradito  in Peru and other South American countries and koko(n)da  in the South Pacific. Although  marinade does not destroy bacteria well-prepared marinated raw deep sea fish is usually unharmful but when made with freshwater fish cerviche should be avoided because of possible parasite infestation.

  • Salads or unpeelable fruit and vegetables
  • Ice cream (unless it is an internationally packaged and labelled brand) and dairy products
  • Oysters, clams, mussels, barbecued prawns or mudcrabs
  • Food that has been left around exposed to flies
  • Dishes requiring a lot of food handling to prepare.

Do eat:

  • Freshly cooked (fried, boiled, steamed) food
  • Peelable fruits -bananas, citrus fruits, etc
  • Food of acceptable brands in cans or sealed packs
  • In well patronised, busy restaurants serving local food
  • Off clean plates with clean cutlery (consider taking your own cutlery)
  • Food prepared by you

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