Food and water safety rules for tourists in India

Sickness due to contaminated water or food is one of the biggest causes of worry to tourists worldwide . Some people have strong stomach and immune systems better than soldiers from special forces. But for rest of us ordinary mortals, not getting sick while traveling is a major issue.

This is of particular importance while traveling in foreign countries. Different places across the world have different benchmarks for cleanliness hygiene and even different germs and pests. For example, an infectious disease like malaria is almost completely eradicated in western world, but it still claims thousands of lives annually in many other countries elsewhere. Due to time and space constraints this article will be limited to  food and drink related hygiene only. Although, this article is written with an Indian perspective these general instructions are true almost everywhere. So let’s begin with

1) Water safety for tourists

Contaminated water is probably the biggest source of infectious diseases worldwide. A lot of scary and potentially fatal diseases can be prevented just by using clean water. Fortunately it’s an easy thing to do almost everywhere. One of the most common solutions is to drink bottled water. It’s  available almost everywhere and comparatively cheap. It may seem expensive if you think  that it’s just plain water. But considering the alternative of possible sickness, it’s good. Even with bottled water, purchase only properly sealed bottles from original brands  . If there is any doubt, leave it and get it from some place else.

What happens if you can’t purchase bottled water ?.In that case, unless you are near a river  with clear and fast moving water etc. you have very few options except boiling it before drinking. You can also use chemical solutions. A few people don’t like the occasional change in taste of water brought about by such filtration.

Another feasible option is using portable filters. There are filters like this portable filter  which is as large as a pen and is used as like a straw. There are some bottles with water filter already fitted in.   But most safest filters  are usually too big to lug around comfortably.

2) Food safety for tourists

Just the basic food safety and hygiene precautions can save you from a lot of trouble.  Posh, high-end restaurants are considered much cleaner and safer than road-side street food vendors across the world. But there can be notable exceptions. Majority of street food vendors prepare their food dishes earlier in day or during the work hours in front of customers and serve them as fresh as possible. Meanwhile, restaurants usually prepare large quantities of their most popular food items or ingredients in advance and store them in refrigerators and heat them up just before serving.
Here are some safety points that you should keep in mind when enjoying street food in India or almost anywhere else:

a)  Don’t eat anything which is not covered and exposed to dust and flies.

Can not be more basic than that.

b) Eat fresh

Occasionally, the food is prepared right in front of you out of semi-prepared ingredients. Not every vendor brings 100 % ready to eat food. If you see food being cooked in front of you, it’s a good sign that it’ll be fresh and good to eat. Good vendors will pay attention to your requests and prepare the food items exactly to your requirements. But if there are other people waiting for their turn, don’t count on it.

c) Get food from  reputable and recommended vendors

Good street food businesses have a good reputations for solid reasons. If in doubt, take advice from your local friends, guides. Observing the clientele is also a good idea. A good food vendor will usually have lots of customers compared to a non-trusted one

d) Know your tolerances and medical conditions

Precautions related to food are can be very confusing. It’s possible to follow all the precautions, but may still ending up with an upset stomach. It can happen due to some previously unknown food intolerance or allergy. It’s really difficult to avoid such unfortunate incidents. If you know about your allergies and food intolerance, ask vendor before eating anything. If not possible, try only small servings to check whether you are okay with it. If you like it and have no side-effects, go on to enjoy it in full. Keep a basic first aid kit consisting of a few essential medications for an upset stomach, antacid, antihistamines etc.

e) Be sure that the utensils are clean.

Most street food vendors use disposable plate, spoons etc. But if they aren’t, ensure the cleanliness first. Use your own wipes on plates if not  sure.

We hope that this article will prove useful to some travelers. Contact us or email for feedback or information.

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  1. June 9, 2013

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