One of the great pleasures of travel is sampling the local cuisine. However, contaminated food and beverages are a common cause of traveller’s diarrhoea (TD) and other gastrointestinal illnesses. Your risk of developing illness is not only within developing countries. Viruses and bacteria can be transferred to your mouth by your hands or cutlery simply by touching everyday items.

Avoid food and water-borne illnesses by:

Always choosing the safer food and beverage options.

Practicing thorough personal hygiene. Clean your hands after using the toilet and before eating. Your mouth, nose and eyes are entry points for germs. Whenever possible, clean your hands before touching your face.

When soap and water are not available, antiseptic wipes or hand gels containing at least 60% alcohol are a quick, convenient alternative. Parents should make sure their children’s hands are clean too.

Drinking Safely

Safe drinking practices:

  • Boiled water: A minute of vigorous bubbling is enough to kill almost all stomach bugs. Let the water stand at room temperature to cool (allowing most impurities to settle) before carefully pouring it into your water bottles.
  • Bottled water: Recognised international brands of bottled water are usually safe to consume. Only accept a bottle with an unbroken seal.
  • Filtered/treated water: Water filters, such as the Fill2Pure range are effective and lightweight. These systems use microfiltration membrane technology to remove over 99.9% of water-borne bacteria and protozoan cysts. Some filtration devices have filters with an additional iodine core, which are not suitable if you are pregnant, allergic to iodine, or have a thyroid condition.
  • Decontaminated water: Purification tablets, such as those which combine chlorine and silver nitrate, are effective, compact, cheap (around 35 cents/litre) and safe for all travellers.
  • Chlorinated water: Add two drops (0.1ml) of 5% chlorine bleach to each litre of water.
  • Iodine-treated water: Iodine is an effective water treatment method. Add eight drops of iodine antiseptic (i.e. Betadine: 1%available iodine) to one litre of water (double the amount of iodine if water is cloudy or cold) and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. Note: Choose a different safe way of treating water if you are allergic to iodine, are pregnant, or have a thyroid condition.
  • Carbonated drinks: Soft drinks, especially international brands, are low-risk beverages (the carbonation kills bacteria) but should not be substituted for water. Local beer is also safe as the water component is boiled during production.
  • Wine and spirits: Alcohol is usually imported and is therefore safe to consume. Do not add ice to your beverage as it may have been made from unsafe tap water.

NOT safe to drink:

  • Water from any other source: Presume water from any tap, well, or other local source is contaminated. Use bottled or treated water when brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth.
  • Drinks containing ice: Freezing water does not kill germs - it only temporarily stops them from multiplying.

Eating Safely

Safe recommended eating practices:

  • Freshly cooked food which has been fried, boiled or steamed.
  • Fruit you can peel such as bananas, citrus fruit, and mangoes.
  • Food from well-known brands preserved in cans or sealed packs.
  • Meals at busy restaurants serving fresh, local food.
  • Food served on clean plates with clean cutlery.

NOT safe/avoid eating:

  • Uncooked, undercooked, or reheated food.
  • Salads or fruit and vegetables that can’t be peeled unless you have washed them thoroughly in water from a safe source.
  • Ice cream or dairy products (unless from a recognised brand in sealed packaging).
  • Raw Shellfish – particularly oysters, clams, mussels, prawns, and mud crabs.
  • Food that has been left sitting uncovered and potentially exposed to flies such as outdoor smorgasbords and markets.
  • Buffets
  • Dishes that require extensive food handling during preparation.