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Food plays a key role in creating an authentic travel experience: it can help you connect with different cultures and expose you to exciting new dishes and flavors. Nevertheless, gastrointestinal infections related to food or water affect between 30%-70% of all travelers during or immediately after their trips, National Geographic reports. It’s therefore important to pay attention to food safety while traveling. By doing what you can to protect yourself, you can enjoy sampling new dishes and remain in good health.

Is it hygienic?

Safe food-handling practices are essential for preventing the spread of disease. If a food worker is sick, they can easily pass on their illness to customers unless the right precautions are taken. So, if you’re dining at a spot where you can see food being prepared, be sure it’s not being handled with bare hands; workers should be wearing gloves and/or using utensils to handle foods that don’t require further cooking (like fruits, salads, and deli meats, for example). In fact, it’s often easier to assess hygiene standards at food stalls compared to restaurants. You can easily take a look at how clean a stall looks, as well as see whether the meat is stored in containers or kept out. And, if you notice men, women, and children all queuing up to eat there, this can provide you with further peace of mind.

Keep an eye out for pests

Similarly, it’s also important to keep an eye out for pests – fruit flies, cockroaches, and rodents, for example, are some of the most common pests found in restaurants while traveling. If you do see any nasty critters at a given food spot, it’s time to leave: pests are responsible for contaminating food and spreading illness and disease. In fact, it’s just as important to take steps to prevent pests in your own home. Integrated pest management (IPM) principles, for example, are simple enough to follow, and can help you keep pests out of your abode once you’re back home in an eco-friendly way. In particular, IPM only involves using toxic chemicals as a last resort, which means a healthier home for you and your family 

Choose the right dishes

Only eat dishes served piping hot. Heat kills germs, including most germs responsible for gastrointestinal infections like traveler’s diarrhea. So, by only eating piping hot food, you can significantly minimize your risk of illness. Also, be careful to note whether a cooked dish has been left out for some time – although bacteria may have successfully been killed during the cooking process, recontamination can occur via exposure to the air. In fact, it’s smart to avoid eating raw foods like fruits, vegetables, juices, and salsas altogether. Unless you can peel or wash it yourself, raw food is likely to harbor germs that’ll make you sick.   

Food safety should play a key role in any trip. By keeping an eye out for good hygiene practices and pests, as well as choosing the right dishes, you can enjoy food while avoiding illnesses while traveling.

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