Food and water safety tips for travellers

The World Health Organization estimates that 2 million people die each year from contaminated food or drinking water. Food poisoning tends to be most severe in impoverished to low-income countries.  Reasons include unclean or unsafe water supply, poor personal hygiene and subpar food production and storage conditions. Before leaving home consult your physician for advice on the various diseases to which you may be exposed at your destination, and the need for vaccinations or other preventive measures. Make sure you carry in your luggage Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), and any other medicines you may require during your travel.

Prevention is better than cure, follow these food-safety tips to keep safe during your travels. 


✔ Wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation
✔ Wash your hands after going to the toilet
✔ Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food preparation
✔ Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests and other animals

While most microorganisms do not cause disease, dangerous microorganisms are widely found in soil, water, animals and people. These microorganisms are carried on hands, wiping cloths and utensils, especially cutting boards and the slightest contact can transfer them to food and cause foodborne diseases.


✔ Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods
✔ Use separate equipment and utensils such as knives and cut ting boards for
handling raw foods
✔ Store food in container s to avoid contact between raw and prepared foods

Raw food, especially meat, poultry and seafood, and their juices, can contain dangerous microorganisms which may be transferred onto other foods during
food preparation and storage.


✔ Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood
✔ Bring foods like soups and stews to boiling to make sure that they have reached
70°C. For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear, not pink. Ideally, use a thermometer
✔ Reheat cooked food thoroughly

Proper cooking kills almost all dangerous microorganisms. Studies have shown that
cooking food to a temperature of 70°C can help ensure it is safe for consumption. Foods that require special attention include minced meats, rolled roasts, large joints of meat and whole poultry.


✔ Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours
✔ Refrigerate promptly all cooked and perishable food (preferably below 5°C)
✔ Keep cooked food piping hot (more than 60°C) prior to serving
✔ Do not store food too long even in the refrigerator
✔ Do not thaw frozen food at room temperature

Cooked food held at room temperature for several hours constitutes another major risk for foodborne illness. Avoid these foods at buffets, markets, restaurants and street vendors if they are not kept hot or refrigerated/on ice. Microorganisms can multiply very quickly if food is stored at room temperature. By holding food refrigerated or on ice (at temperatures below 5°C) or piping hot (above 60°C) the growth of microorganisms is slowed down or stopped.


✔ If available, bottled water is the safer choice for drinking water. When the safety of drinking water
is doubtful, bring it to a vigorous boil. 
✔ Select fresh and wholesome foods
✔Peel all fruits and vegetables if eaten raw. Avoid
those with damaged skin
✔ Wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw
✔ Do not use food beyond its expiry date

Ice cream, drinking water, ice cubes and raw milk can easily be contaminated with dangerous microorganisms or chemicals if they are made from contaminated ingredients. Toxic chemicals may be formed in damaged and mouldy foods. Care in selection of raw materials and simple measures such as washing and peeling may reduce the risk.

Diseases A-Z Index



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