The chance to have new and different food experiences is reason alone for many people to travel — and indeed the very best part of the experience. But even unafraid, adventurous eaters would be wise to be aware of the potential dangers of seemingly innocent but potentially very dangerous food and drink to avoid while on the road.
1. Local water
Let's start with the basics: Savvy travelers know you shouldn't drink the water in many places you visit around the globe — and yes, that includes using a small about to brush your teeth. Bottled water is easy to come by. But, “If you want to avoid contributing to the local trash heap, bring your own purification device and make drinking water from the tap in your hotel,” says Jacquie Whitt of Adios Adventure Travel.
2. Locally made cheese
It goes back to that water again: “Local water is used, not to mention dairy products, and especially in the Andes Mountains, these may contain enzymes foreign to your body,” says Whitt.
Oh hello again, water — this time, in the form of ice. If you’re in a place where drinking water from the tap is in question, you should exercise the same skepticism when it comes to ice, too! “Make sure that the ice is made using filtered water, or just avoid consuming it all together to stay on the safe side,” says dietician and nutritionist Keri Glassman.
4. Cold deli meat and cheese
“Though they are laden with salt as preservatives, cold meats and cheeses can run rampant with bacteria if they are left out, and eating meat while abroad is safer after [the meat has been] cooked thoroughly, and consumed while still hot,” says Glassman. Food that has had the time to cool while sitting out for too long is also at risk for being bacteria laden. Think: hotel buffets.
5. Actually, any cold food
Beyond that, you'd be wise to avoid food that is cold, especially if it’s supposed to be hot. “The longer the food is sitting out, the more time the bacteria has to grow,” says Julie Starr, a Boston-based wellness and nutrition expert. If you choose to try some food from kiosks or small restaurants (which often have the best tasting, authentic options), make sure you see its fresh and use your eyes. Look at the kiosk and kitchen: Does it look clean? If not, keep walking.
6. Raw foods
Veggies and fruit have likely been washed with (wait for it) that local water. “Most resorts will use filtered water to wash their food, but be careful when you are eating off resort or at the hidden-gem places that the locals recommend. In general, avoid buffet meals especially the cheese, deli meats, and salad,” says Starr. “Opt for cooked veggies whenever you can,” says Starr.
7. Peeled fruit
The peel on fruit serves as protection from bacteria — so if you peel it yourself, you're OK. Otherwise, consider avoiding it. “Part of traveling is tasting new foods — especially when you go to the tropics. There is so much fresh fruit! Try to choose fruit that has the peel still on, but if it has been peeled already, rinse it off and make sure that it hasn't been sitting out,” says Starr.
Seafood can also carry some unwanted contaminants, so just do some research into the area you are visiting before diving in to that fish dish with abandon. “There are a lot of apps that will tell you what bacteria are found in the water by region. Just like with fruit and veggies, opt for cooked fish as opposed to raw,” says Starr.
"Raw or undercooked eggs frequently included in traditional Caesar salad dressing, or atop a pizza or sandwich” says dietician and nutritionist Jennifer Bowers. “These eggs may harbor salmonella, which manifests as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Dishes to be wary of include pasta alla carbonara, zabaglione, egg nog, biscuit tortoni, and pizza con uovo,” says Bowers. "Opt for fully cooked eggs for your best bet in staying well."
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