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      Food and drinks

      Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski

      Food and drinks can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites that can cause various diseases. 

      Diarrhoea is particularly common in travellers and usually disappears without treatment. However, more serious infections - such as dysentery or typhoid fever - can also occur. 

      Older people, young children and people with immune disorders or other health problems are generally more susceptible to infections. This also applies to people with reduced stomach acid production, for example after taking antacids or following gastric bypass surgery. 

      Risk areas

      Food-borne infections occur all over the world, but the risk is higher in countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America with a lower standard of hygiene.


      Prevention of food-borne infections

      It is impossible to prevent food-borne infections completely, but the following measures reduce the risk:

      Basic hygiene

      Wash your hands with soap and water or a disinfectant alcohol gel before cooking or eating and after using the toilet.


      Do not allow people who are sick to prepare food.

      Food: to be avoided

      (Half) raw foods:

      • salads 
      • uncooked or unbaked foods 
      • fruit that you have not peeled yourself or washed yourself in clean water 
      • uncooked or unpasteurised milk products 
      • dishes that contain raw eggs 
      • raw or partially cooked fish and seafood 
      • undercooked meat 

      Dishes that were cooked, but were then left at room temperature for hours (i.e. eat only food that has been thoroughly heated and is still warm). 

      Ice cream from street vendors (industrially produced ice cream in the original packaging straight from the freezer is probably safe). 

      Cold buffets, particularly if the food is chilled directly using ice. 

      Street stalls, unless the food is thoroughly cooked and consumed immediately, whilst still hot.


      Bottled water and soft drinks are generally safe. Be wary of re-used crown caps.

      If you only have access to contaminated water, you can purify it yourself by filtration, specific UV tools and disinfection

      Avoid tap water and ice cubes (even in alcohol). 

      Drinks that have been diluted with water that has not been boiled. Cold water that has not been boiled is sometimes added to hot tea or coffee just before serving. 


      Ensure that flies cannot get into your food. Avoid restaurants with a lot of flies or other insects and with a low turnover.

      Washing dishes

      Do not wash dishes in clear streams, but rather wash in hot soapy water and use a clean dishcloth and towels.


      Store food and leftovers in a refrigerator.

      Gastric acid inhibitors

      Discuss with your doctor if you can temporary interrupt your treatment with gastric acid inhibitors. 


      Do not swallow (contaminated) water when swimming, in spas and when brushing your teeth.

      Be prepared

      Bring ORS (a mixture of salts and glucose) and an anti-diarrhoea medicine (such as loperamide) with you. In exceptional cases, it is recommended that you also take an antibiotic with you. Discuss this with your doctor.

      In case of symptoms

      Treatment of traveller's diarrhea.

      Seek medical advice if you suffer any other symptoms.

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