Health – Food & Waterborne Disease

Food & Waterborne Disease is undoubtedly the most difficult and easily broken travel health rules are those governing the consumption of food and water. One would do well to remember that the stomach plays an integral part in our biology and should be treated with the same care as the rest of the body. By following the rules you maybe able to avoid food & waterborne disease. 


  • Eat freshly cooked hot food (physically hot – not spicy hot). If your food is hot and fresh, the risk of contamination is very small. Conversely cold foods such as salads or cold meats can easily be infected with a variety of organisms such as bacteria, viruses or parasites.
  • Eat only fresh fruit that you have cleaned and peeled yourself. Cook It, Boil It, Peel It, or Don’t Eat It.
  • Avoid lettuce and undercooked shellfish. Oysters, shrimps, prawns and mussels are frequently harvested from infected waters and then mildly steamed in preparation for human consumption. Mild steaming is not sufficient sterilisation and numerous unpleasant pollutants will remain in the fish and ultimately end up in your stomach.
  • Before ordering a meal at the nearest restaurant, make sure that it is clean. See how often tables are cleaned, look at your cutlery and confirm that it is clean? A street wise traveller will visit the ablution facilities, if they are well maintained it is a safe bet that the kitchen will have a high level of hygiene as well.
  • Choose food from the menu that you recognise and make certain all meat is well cooked. Rare or bloody steaks are ill-advised when eating from foreign kitchens. Many travellers insisting on rear meat have returned from their travels carrying unwanted guests such as tapeworms. If your meat dish is not well cooked when it arrives at the table, send it back for reheating. To ensure that you get your own meal back cut a wedge out of a corner.


  • Most travellers know that tap water in foreign countries is more often than not, questionable at best and as a result no self respecting traveller would ever dream of drinking from the taps in their hotel rooms. Nevertheless travellers often used this “undrinkable” water to brushing their teeth. Water will be absorbed from your mouth very rapidly whether you swallow or not.
  • In regions where the tap water is untreated (smell for chlorine) don’t use ice in your drinks. The ice will probably be made from tap water and may be contaminated.
  • In some of the ‘better’ hotels ‘fresh’ jugs of water will be provided. Treat this with extreme caution; only use this water to wash your face if necessary. More often than not this jug will have been filled from a tap down the corridor – rather like the tap in your bedroom!
  • Bottled mineral water is a much safer option so long as the bottle is well sealed. One of the other major pitfalls from drinking overseas comes from buying ‘freshly squeezed’ juices from roadside stalls. Often as the coach pulls to a stop stall owners will have seen that they have too little juice for the entire coach and may top up the drink with ordinary tap water and some sugar.