Good health and travel are not, unfortunately, a given. Exposure to germs, different sanitary conditions and foods can get you sick and seriously so. Here is what you need to know about food safety when traveling abroad.
How problematic is food borne illness? According to the World Health Organization, millions of people become ill and thousands die each day from food borne disease. To that end WHO offers five keys to safer food:
1. Keep clean. If you prepare food while abroad, follow the same guidelines you would do when you are home. This includes washing your hands often and always before you handle or consume food. Micro organisms can prove dangerous and are found on people, animals, water and soil. If you touch raw meat, wash your hands immediately. At markets around the world, raw meat may be on display and and may include live animals that are carriers of diseases. Avoid touching such animals.
2. Separate raw and cooked food. Foods that have been cooked should be kept apart from foods that are raw. To be on the safe side, only consume raw foods that can be peeled or shelled such as fruits and vegetables. Avoid dishes containing raw foods such as uncooked eggs. Uncooked foods can introduce bacteria into food that has been cooked and is otherwise safe for consumption.
3. Thoroughly cook food. It is important that food always be cooked to its proper temperature. When eating out while abroad, this is not always easy to determine if food has been properly prepared. Beef and chicken should be adequately cooked with no evidence of red or pink. Foods should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius). If in doubt, ask that the food be cooked longer or simply do not eat.
4. Store food at safe temperatures. Food should always be stored at temperatures that are safe. For refrigerated foods, temperatures below 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) are sufficient. For heated foods, temperatures of at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) are sufficient. A danger area are food bars and buffets where temperatures may not be properly monitored.
5. Choose water and food that is safe. Some foods should be completely avoided when you traveling. This includes salads or other green-leafed vegetables that are not cooked. Moreover, the water used to clean the salads may cause illness leading to diarrhea. Most drinking water is unsafe, at least to you. If available, bottled water is usually sufficient especially if it has been treated. If no other water options are available, you can boil water to remove its impurities.
Traveling abroad can pose many challenges. Foodborne illness need not be one of them. Being aware of how food is handled and cooked wherever you eat is very important. Ask around for safe places to eat wherever you travel.
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