Food safety. Traveler's notes

Food safety is one of the public safety issues that we take for granted in developed countries. Sure, we’ve all at some point blamed a recent restaurant meal for an upset stomach or other similar ailment, but worries about food borne illness are not generally in the front and center of our thought processes while we scour a menu in search of something delicious.

This can change drastically when you decide to go on a trip to a country where something like food handler certification is not commonplace. Suddenly, there are extra considerations when figuring out your next meal (beyond the simple question: “What’s good?”). The precautions you need to take will often vary wildly depending on your destination.

One of my worst experiences was getting violently ill on a Russian train after visiting a lavash stand in Crimea. That likely had something to do with the record-breaking heat-wave that was washing over Europe at the time. In weather like that, it’s best to find a restaurant that looks like it has reliable refrigeration. Unfortunately I’m an absolute sucker for food stands as they are often both cheap and delicious. It feels like there isn’t a country that I’ve been to that did not involve a regrettable food stand experience; from a nice elderly lady selling spring rolls on Bangkok, to a roadside hot dog stand in the north of Poland. Common sense is really your best friend, especially if you want to get into some more adventurous food. I’ve managed to avoid getting sick from raw beef or live octopus , just by being a bit more discerning about the places I chose to eat such things (though the live octopus was certainly just a one-time occasion).

Depending on your travel preferences, you might just find yourself in a place where none of the local restaurants has ever seen a health inspector and food safety manager certification is not a thing. In that case, I would say you have two choices: roll the dice, or see if there’s a major chain restaurant around. They usually have some level of standardization in terms of food safety practices, meaning your meal is more likely to be safe, though not nearly as exciting. Again, your common sense should really help you find that nice balance between risk and reward. Prevention is really the best remedy against food poisoning, though it is not a bad idea to pack a bit of medicine on your next trip just in case.


Bart Bart Chlebowski is a professional writer and TEFL teacher currently based in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia. He just came back from spending over 4 years in the South Korean TEFL industry both as a teacher and content creator. He has a degree in English with a minor in political science from the University of British Columbia, and plans to go on to get his MA in Europe later this year. His interests include current events, politics, history, literature, and travel. In his free time, he enjoys hitting the beach, having some drinks with his wife and friends, or taking in a good soccer match.

Posted in Blog on Mar 21, 2017

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