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Food&Water Considerations While Traveling

Contaminated food and water is the leading source of illness and diarrhea that occurs during travel. Fortunately, there are some choices you can make to reduce your chance of becoming ill. Here are some suggestions:

Food selection

Ask the concierge at your hotel or on your cruise ship for recommendations for well-established, reliable dining locations. International hotels and better restaurants that normally cater to travelers in big cities are generally a safer option when dining out. Yet, careful, informed choices remains important everywhere

When selecting foods, know that foods and beverages served steaming hot are considered safe. Street vendors should be avoided. Order all meat and seafood well done. Beware of anything cold, especially meat, even if it has been cooked. The following chart provides a short list of food products considered safe as well as foods to avoid.

Foods Considered Safe

  • Hot coffee, tea, and soup (if served steaming)
  • Any food served steaming
  • Undiluted fresh grapefruit or orange juice
  • Bottled/canned noncarbonated water
  • Bottled/canned carbonated beverages: soft drinks, beer, or mineral water
  • Packaged butter
  • Packaged processed cheese
  • Dry bread

Foods to Avoid

  • Tap water and ice
  • Fresh salads and leafy green vegetables
  • Desserts, especially those containing custard, cream, or whipped cream
  • Fresh cheese
  • Cold meats and foods, including previously boiled seafood
  • Reheated foods
  • Spicy sauces in open containers on tables
  • Milk and other dairy products from questionable sources
  • Any food product from a street vendor that you have not seen boiling for at least 5 minutes
  • Fruit that has been peeled by someone else

Water and ice

Bottled or canned beverages are usually considered safe, especially if carbonated. Beverages that are boiled, such as tea, coffee, hot chocolate, are also considered safe. Before opening a bottled or canned beverage, be sure to wipe the container opening and drinking edge with a clean tissue. It is wise to use clean straws for drinking cold beverages. Experienced travelers often bring their own supply.

To err on the side of caution, it’s wise to never drink tap water or use it for tooth brushing. Also, do not open or rinse your mouth when showering. Placing a towel in the sink in your room helps to remind you not to use the tap water and instead use bottled water.

Don’t forget about ice. Ice should be considered contaminated. This includes ice on board airlines when traveling back home.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/15/2011...#12783