To avoid illness when you are traveling, it is important to select food with care. Keep the following in mind:
- All raw food is subject to contamination.
- In areas where hygiene and sanitation are inadequate, you should avoid
salads, uncooked vegetables, and unpasteurized milk and milk products such
- Eat only food that has been cooked and is still hot.
- Eat only fruit that has been peeled (by the traveler).
- Undercooked and raw meat, fish, and shellfish can carry various intestinal
- Cooked food that has been allowed to stand for
several hours at ambient temperature can provide a fertile medium for
bacterial growth and should be
thoroughly reheated before serving.
- Consumption of food and beverages obtained from street food vendors has
been associated with an increased risk of illness.
- The easiest way to guarantee a safe food source for an infant younger than 6 months of age is to have the infant breast fed. If the infant is formula fed, make sure the formula is prepared from commercial powder and boiled water.
I smell something fishy....beware!
- Some species of fish and shellfish can contain poisonous biotoxins, even
when well cooked. The most common type of biotoxin in fish is ciguatoxin. The flesh of the
barracuda is the most toxic laden and should always be avoided. Red snapper,
grouper, amberjack, sea bass, and a wide range of tropical reef fish contain
the toxin at unpredictable times.
- The potential for ciguatera poisoning exists in all subtropical and
tropical insular areas of the West Indies and the Pacific and Indian Oceans
where the implicated fish species are eaten. Symptoms of ciguatera poisoning
include gastroenteritis followed by neurologic problems such as dysesthesias;
temperature reversal; weakness; and, rarely, hypotension.
- Scombroid is another common fish poisoning that
occurs worldwide in tropical, as well as temperate, regions. Fish of the
Scombridae family (for
example, bluefin, yellowfin tuna, mackerel, and bonito), as well as some
nonscombroid fish (for example, mahimahi, herring, amberjack, and bluefish)
may contain high levels of histidine in their flesh. With improper
refrigeration or preservation, histidine is converted to histamine, which
can cause flushing, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and urticaria.
- Cholera cases have occurred among people who ate crab brought back from
Latin America by travelers.
- Travelers should be advised not to bring perishable seafood with them when they return to the United States from high-risk areas.
For additional information, please visit the MedicineNet.com Travel Medicine Center.
Portions of the above information was provided with the kind permission of the Centers for Disease Control.