Food Safety While Traveling
In 1999 Kerri and I stopped at a small non-touristy village north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We were looking for lunch and noticed a restaurant with a lot of tables and chairs on the beach with a great view of the bay. So, we grabbed a table away from the other diners to enjoy a good Mexican lunch and the great view. We were expecting the waiter that had been serving the other diners to come to our table with menus, but were surprised when the waiter appeared from a small cinderblock building behind us to give us menus. It was then that we realized that it was actually two restaurants on the beach, and we happened to sit at the other one; the one with no people. The rule of thumb when looking for good (and safe) food is to go to a place where the people are. This is especially true in foreign countries. We considered moving to the other restaurant, but did not want to be rude since we had already sat at a table and had menus, so we stayed put.
Being a coastal town the menu had mostly seafood, and fresh seafood sounded like a safe option for lunch. So we ordered the seafood platter to share and sat back with our drinks enjoying the warm Mexican weather.
When the waiter brought out the platter we were shocked. It was the size of the table and smelled amazing. We consumed the lobster, shrimp, and assorted fish and could not believe our luck for finding all of this amazing seafood at such a great price. After we paid the bill and thanked the waiter for a great lunch we started heading back to our jeep, but first made a pit stop at the bathroom which was part of the cinderblock building. Once in the bathroom I noticed that there was no electricity or running water, which sent alarm bells off in my head. I am sure there are plenty of great restaurants around the world with no electricity or running water, but somehow I equate those things with safe food. When we travel around the world I will need to change that view, but for now the lack of those things always worry me.
A few hours later when we were back at our hotel the realization that we should have listened to our inner warnings struck. And anyone that has eaten tainted food knows exactly what that entails. So with bouts of vomiting and diarrhea Kerri and I had a rough night and learned a valuable lesson. Always question the cleanliness of your food and only eat where other people are eating.
With our upcoming trip to travel round the world approaching, we have given serious thought on how to stay safe when eating food while traveling. We have received our hepatitis and typhoid vaccines and never travel without plenty of hand sanitizer and Immodium. But even trying to take every precaution, travelers always seem to suffer one way or another. But that’s just part of the traveling experience, right? A new place has new germs and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But I would like to hear from the other travelers out there about what your tricks are to staying healthy and avoiding tainted food while traveling. So, if anyone has any advice to offer, we would love to hear it.