Food safety tips for a great holiday

I’m going to carry on with the holiday theme as in Marian’s blog on healthy eating on holiday last week.

Unlike Marian, I’m more of a last minute girl in terms of packing - but I get there in the end. I love my holidays especially trying new tasty foods. On the down side, unfortunately we have all heard stories about people who have been struck down with food poisoning while on holiday, which can be very distressing at any time but even more so if you are thousands of miles from home.

When you’re looking for places to eat, it’s a good idea to get recommendations from locals, tourist information, guidebooks or rating websites. Of course, finding hidden eateries off the beaten track or being a bit adventurous can be good fun. Wherever you decide to eat, here are some tips to avoid the risk of food poisoning abroad:

Check the place out when you arrive!

girl getting sick in toiletWhen you arrive at a restaurant have a quick scan around and check:

  • Are other people dining in the restaurant?
  • Are tables and surfaces clean and uncluttered? 
  • Is the staff well presented, with clean hands, long hair tied back, and clean clothes? 

If food is displayed:

  • Is raw and ready-to-eat foods displayed separately? To prevent cross contamination these foods should never be displayed next to each other and separate utensils should be used for both. 
  • If you can see food being prepared, is it being done in a hygienic manner? 
  • Does the food on display look fresh? avoid any food which looks as if it has been lying around or not 100% fresh 
  • Is all the food displayed covered? Because it should be!

Check out your meal when it arrives!

  • Hot food should be served hot and cold food should be served cold. If the temperature isn’t right, send it back 
  • If part of your meal is undercooked, send it back. Ask for a fresh serving of everything to ensure that the other food has not been contaminated by the juices of the undercooked food 
  • Meat should be cooked until there is no pink meat left, it's piping hot all the way through and the juices run clear 
  • In countries where it isn’t advisable to drink local water, raw vegetables and salads washed in local water should be avoided 
  • If you find a “foreign body”, e.g. a hair in your food, send it back 
  • Is the food fresh and prepared to order? If it looks as if it’s been hanging around waiting for you, don’t eat it 
  • If you have any suspicion that due care and attention wasn’t given to the preparation of your food, complain. Be polite but firm.

Preparing your own!

If you’re in an apartment complex or on a budget, you might be doing your own cooking, below are some good food safety tips to follow:

  • Only buy foods which you can store safely. Don’t buy foods that need to be chilled if you’re in a hot country and you don’t have access to fridge to keep them chilled 
  • When buying vegetables from markets, look for freshness 
  • Make sure that the meat is chilled and covered. Try and buy from busy sources to avoid meat that isn’t fresh
  • Remember to wash vegetables and fruit in bottled water in places where the local water isn’t safe to drink
  • Make sure that utensils are thoroughly cleaned in hot soapy water before you use them
  • Apply the same basic rules of food preparation as you would at home

Before you travel, make yourself familiar with the symptoms of food poisoning and what to do if you become ill while away. Avoiding food poisoning abroad is a matter of common sense and knowing what to look out for. Keep your eyes open and be sensible about what and where you eat and, above all, have fun and enjoy your holidays!


Posted: 17/07/2014 13:55:40 by Mairead McCann
Filed under: Food poisoning, Food safety, Fridges, Summer, Travel

About Me

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Mairead McCann
I am Technical Executive in Food Science with safefood. I’m a food microbiologist and my work involves research into food safety and addressing queries on a range of food hygiene and safety issues. I live in County Cork although I am originally from County Down (where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to sea :-). In my free time I love to keep fit, catch up with friends and family, plan holidays and nice weekends away and eating out with my husband.