Don’t let illness spoil your trip. I will never forget the time a few years ago in Venice when on of my friends got very ill. He was completely incapacitated for the three days we were in Venice. We were strolling around on our first night and thought we would eat somewhere nice and there was a small restaurant which looked quite charming so we got a table for the six of us. We all enjoyed our meals and paid up. It was only later that our friend became violently ill. That was about the same time we realised that we had been charged about 30 Euro for a small jug of house wine.
For my friend, the weekend went downhill from there as he struggled with all the associated effects I don’t need to elaborate on. By the time we were leaving on the fourth day he was well enough to be held vertically for the Vaporetto ride to collect our rental car. He enjoyed the rest of our stay in Italy with a new appreciation of life and a refined sensitivity to eating while in unfamiliar territory. I don’t think he has eaten Tuna since!
Caution Required.. While this could happen anywhere, it is important while travelling to reduce the risks of a gastric catastrophe by using a little caution. Most good restaurants in the world have excellent food hygiene but there are some foods you should eliminate by using a little common sense.
Highly perishable foods like shellfish, wet fish and chicken should be treated with caution unless the restaurant is known for those specialities and would therefore in theory have a high turnover of stock and less likelihood of putrefaction. These two categories also have the reputations for producing the worst toxins and symptoms if things do go wrong.
In many countries, especially in Asia, it pays to be wary of the water as many water-borne diseases are common and western travellers have not usually built up an immunity to them. Drinks with ice in them, salads and vegetables that have been washed in the local water are also on the suspect list.
One of the issues that causes problems for us soft westerners is our immune system that is not tuned to local conditions. This is where food hygiene can play an important part in determining whether we get to see the sights we came for or not. In Thailand for example I have seen vegetables and poultry being washed down together on the footpath and the dishes from the restaurant being washed in a child’s paddling pool that I would not want to step in. They are not all like that and I loved the food in Thailand.
Cleanliness.. I just made sure there were lots of locals eating there and that there was a reasonable level of cleanliness before I went in. The whole three weeks I was there I never got sick. I even ate seafood but it was where I could watch it being cooked. It was delicious.
Game… In various parts of the world you may also have access to game that has been hunted for by members of the public or produced on game farms. The game farms are generally a safe bet as they are usually regulated by the local health authorities but If they have been dropped off at a local restaurant by a local hunter you have no way of knowing how long the pheasant was lying in the trunk of his car in the hot sun, or if that wild pig was foraging on a nice forest floor or eating raw sewage from the back streets.
Speaking about pork; it needs to be thoroughly cooked, however you probably don’t want it dried and tough and beyond being recognisable as food either!
Eggs are another risky food as most poultry have high counts of salmonella and other nasties you do not want in your body. These are usually removed by adequate cooking but the sniff test is also a good indicator of age of and egg and if it smells sulphurous, avoid. If you buy eggs from a market you can test them by putting them in water. If they are too old, the gas inside the shell will cause them to float. I did get one once that had a fully developed chicken embryo in it. In Indonesia and some other places, this is considered a delicacy but I passed on that one. Also beware of raw egg used in mayonnaise, steak tartare etc but you are probably not wanting to eat raw minced beef anyway!
The best defence is common sense and your common senses, i.e. using your eyes, nose and taste. Remember you are there to experience new things in your travels, and all adventure carries risk just remember to be smart, be safe and enjoy the foods of the world.