Tips: Precautions When Eating Foods Abroad (Water Safety)

Hi everyone! In my last post on magnetically aesthetic, I shared the fact that I’ll be living in Mexico for the next two months to do some fieldwork to put into practice what I’ve learned in graduate school.

It’s Day 4, and I’m adjusting to the slower pace in Agua Caliente Nueva. My host family has taken me to eat at a couple of seafood restaurants since I arrived, and I got to meet their extended family over the weekend when we spent the day at the beach for el Día del Padre (Father’s Day)!

I share this background information with you because somewhere within the first three days of arriving, I ate what I suspect was contaminated, or unclean food, because I was sick for a day! I woke up in the middle of the night with intense stomach cramping and pain, and had to take it easy on Monday while relying on Pepto Bismol to keep my stomach neutral. I read somewhere that taking activated charcoal can help with upset stomach as well, so I decided to take a spoon of it as well (FYI- it doesn’t have a taste! I just mixed it in potable water and added some honey and it just tasted like honey water).

 

Today, I’m feeling much better with occasional cramping, but overall I’m getting back to my normal function haha. I wanted to share some tips for food safety when traveling abroad (ironic since I’m a public health student, too, and I should know better!)

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  1. Do your research when you travel to another country. Is the tap water potable for consumption?
    • If yes, great! In the US for example, most states (see Flint Water Crisis) have perfectly potable water that you can drink directly from the tap.
    • If no, here are some options:
      • buy only bottled water or the big jugs of water, and make sure you check that the seal hasn’t been broken before you purchase them
      • when you go to restaurants, ask for bottled water or if the cups of water are purified
      • when you get drinks with ice cubes in them, you typically want to have the ice cubes that look like hollow cylinders since those are made with purified water
      • buy 1oz of iodine that you can drop into the water to purify it before drinking **NOTE: I have yet to find a store in Manzanillo that sells iodine that you can put in water for drinking, so make sure you look this up and purchase it before you travel**
  2. When you order salads, ask if they use purified water (agua purificado in Spanish) to wash their vegetables. I have a feeling I may have eaten some veggies that were cleaned with their unsafe tap water.
    • You can also order cooked vegetables or ask if they serve any cooked veggies (vegetales cocidos)
  3. If you’re going to prepare vegetables at home prior to cooking, you can use the tap water, but make sure you cook them well to kill off any bacteria.
  4. When you order or purchase prepared fruit, ask if they use purified water.
    • It’s better for you to get fruit that still have the skin on them, so you can wash it yourself with purified water when you get home 🙂
  5. WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE YOU EAT! I really should have known betterwhen I was at the beach.
    Frijoles, Guacamole, Salsa and Salsa de Nopales
    pastilla, salsa de tomate, salsa de nopales, frijoles, aguacate (guacamole), y tortillas

    The family members forgot to pack utensils for eating, so all of the tortillas and toppings were handled with our hands. Wanting to fit in and not act pretentious with my Bath and Body Works hand sanitizer, I went into the water, brushed off the sand from my body with my hands, wiped down my hands with a measly paper towel, and chowed down! In hindsight, I ask myself, what were you thinking?! If it wasn’t the washed uncooked veggies, it was DEFINITELY from not washing my hands before I ate at the beach.

  6. (unrelated to food, but still very important) The water is usually safe enough for you to brush your teeth with and shower with, but if you wear contacts, I’d recommend rinsing out the case with purified water so you don’t get any bacteria in your eyes.