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Food Poisoning While Abroad Can Be a Bummer. Helpful Tips to Get You Through It.

Posted in Food Safety,Our Blog on March 28, 2024

Spring has sprung and many people are planning those summer trips. But one thing most people don’t plan for is food poisoning while abroad and how to deal with it.

Traveling Abroad





Foodborne illness plan?


While planning your trip abroad, you may be thinking about currency exchange and making sure you have packed enough clothes. The tourist highlights and restaurants you want to visit may also be on the top of your list.

But have you considered a plan for foodborne illness?

Food Poisoning Abroad Can Be Difficult

Food poisoning is never a fun experience. Whether home or traveling abroad, nobody wants to deal with diarrhea, vomiting, and other potential symptoms. It becomes particularly difficult when you are away from home. Even more so if you are traveling in a different country.

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is the generic term used to describe foodborne illness. It is generally not an intentional source; however negligence is typically the cause for most cases of foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness or food poisoning can be caused by consuming contaminated food or water containing harmful microorganisms such as viruses, parasites, toxins, and most commonly observed, bacteria.

Tips to Prevent Food Poisoning While Abroad

As Benjamin Franklin one said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This saying holds true when it comes to food poisoning while abroad.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

Being prepared is the first step of avoiding foodborne illness while travelling.

Research Your Destination

Is your destination known for contaminated water or certain foodborne pathogens locals are immune to? Knowing the common sources of foodborne illness at your destination can help you plan around it.

For example, in cases where water is often contaminated, you may want to refresh yourself with decontamination measures. Perhaps boiling water or bringing water treatment tablets is an option. Perhaps plan to use bottled water to brush your teeth and remember not to swallow shower water.

Another often overlooked risk factor in areas where water is often contaminated is soda machines. Bottled sodas are likely a safe bet, however if the beverage is dispensed from a soda machine, it likely uses carbonated water from the restaurant’s tap and is likely to be unsafe. The same goes for ice.

Pay Attention to Temperature

Cold food should be served cold and hot food should be served hot. Avoid lukewarm food to reduce the risk of food poisoning while abroad.

Whether being served the food directly or getting it yourself from a buffet or salad bar, be sure that food temperatures are in a safe range.

Hot food should be steaming, and cold food should be chilled.

Harmful bacteria are in their sweet spot between 40 °F and 140 °F. This is the perfect temperature for them to rapidly grow and reproduce in dangerous numbers. We call this the “danger zone.”

Unless a food thermometer is available (unlikely), you are at the mercy of their food handling practices and your own judgement. If in doubt, pass on it and opt for dry or packaged goods instead.

Dry and/or packaged goods are usually safe because most germs require a damp environment to grow. Additionally, these types of food usually come in factory-sealed containers. If they haven’t been opened or handled by another person, they are likely safe.

Avoid Raw Foods

Consider opting for cooked foods to avoid food poisoning while abroad. Avoid cut fruit or vegetables, fresh salads, fresh salsas, and of course raw meat or seafood. This includes foods like ceviche that is “cooked” with citrus juice, vinegar, or other acidic liquid.

Fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself or wash with bottled or disinfected water are a good alternative to those that may have been handled or come in contact with contaminated water.

Avoid Street Food and/or “Bushmeat”

Bushmeat usually refers to local wild game and is often not food typically eaten in the United States. In some countries, bats, monkeys, and rodents are fair game when it comes to protein sources. These animals can be a source of animal-to-human spread diseases, such as Ebola or Monkeypox.

While it might seem like the touristy thing to do, avoid eating food from street vendors. Hygiene practices are not always followed in these venues. If you do choose to eat street food, avoid raw fruits and vegetables and opt for food that is cooked and visibly steaming hot.

Use Caution with Dairy

Only consume pasteurized milk from a sealed bottle. Even pasteurized milk can become contaminated if it is stored in open containers and may have been sitting at room temperature.

Many other countries do not pasteurize dairy products. Unpasteurized foods carry significant risks, particularly for pregnant women or people with a weakened immune system. Avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.

What Should I Do If I Get Food Poisoning While Abroad and Get Sick?

Getting sick while traveling may not be a “trip-ender,” however you should monitor your symptoms and seek medical care if you become seriously ill.

A few simple tips can hopefully help you get out of the hotel bathroom and back in the action.

Stay Hydrated

When you get sick with food poisoning, whether at home or away, hydration is important. Diarrhea and vomiting deplete the body of important water.  Replace that water by drinking plenty of fluids and electrolytes.

Get Some Rest

It isn’t always easy when you aren’t feeling great and need to run to the bathroom every 30 minutes but try to get some rest. If you aren’t in the bathroom, try to stay in bed and conserve your energy. You are likely not eating very much and need to get some rest so that your body can go about doing what it needs to do to make you feel better.

Eat Bland Foods

When you have food poisoning, eating food can be tricky. The body is trying to eject all the bad things from itself, and most of the time your tummy is telling you that you don’t want any more.

Stick with the BRAT diet. This stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. Some people find saltine crackers tolerable as well. These bland foods are better tolerated when you digestive system is already angry.

Monitory Your Symptoms

Common food poisoning symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of energy, fever, and/or loss of appetite.

If symptoms become so severe that you cannot keep any liquids down, you begin producing very little urine, experience bloody diarrhea, or high fever, it is time to seek medical attention. If you get food poisoning while abroad and do not know where to go for safe medical care, contact your country’s consulate, if available.

Safe Travels

Wherever your summer travel plans take you, whether home or abroad, prepare and prevent foodborne illness. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Want to Know More About Food Safety?

If you’d like to know more about food safety, like Food Poisoning While Abroad Can Be a Bummer, check out the Make Food Safe Blog. We regularly update trending topics, foodborne infections in the news, recalls, and more! Stay tuned for quality information to help keep your family safe, while The Lange Law Firm, PLLC strives to Make Food Safe!

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)