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Food and Water Precautions

Introduction

Travellers may find themselves exposed to the organisms that can cause travellers' diarrhoea. These organisms are all spread by human/animal faecal contamination of food, water or surfaces and are ingested during eating, drinking or hand to mouth contact.

The risk of travellers diarrhoea can be reduced by practising good food, water and hand hygiene.

General Rules

Hand hygiene when eating and drinking is very important.

  • Where possible, wash hands prior to handling food, eating and always after using the toilet.
  • Handwashing facilities may be poor or not available when travelling, therefore it is advisable to carry sanitising gel or hand wipes at all times.

There are some general rules of food and water precautions. While it may not be practical to follow all of these rules, all of the time, applying them where possible will reduce the risk of travellers' diarrhoea.

  • Ensure that clean dishes, cups and utensils are used; use alcohol wipes to clean them if necessary.
  • If using street vendors, where possible, choose food that is freshly cooked to a high temperature and served immediately while still hot.

Food Precautions

Freshly prepared thoroughly cooked food, served piping hot, including meat and vegetables, is generally safe. Avoid leftovers or food that may have been left uncovered for any length of time.

Note the following:

Meat should be thoroughly cooked and eaten hot.

  • Leftovers and reheated meat should be avoided.

Fish and shellfish can be hazardous even if well cooked. Local advice about seafood should be sought, but when in doubt it is best avoided.

Only consume pasteurised milk/milk products.

  • Unpasteurised milk should be boiled.
  • Cheeses and ice cream are often made from unpasteurised milk. When in doubt these should only be bought from larger well established companies where quality can usually be assured.

Only eat thoroughly cooked vegetables.

  • Salads and fresh herbs (including in drinks) should be avoided.
  • Avoid buffet style food and instead choose freshly prepared, thoroughly cooked food that is served piping hot where possible.

Peel fruit, including tomatoes.

  • Berries, in particular raspberries, may be a source of Cyclospora (a parasite) infection. They are difficult to wash and best avoided.

Water and Liquid Precautions

Water can contain not only visible debris and harmful microorganisms, but also chemical pollutants.  

Water should only be drunk if its purity is known. This also applies to water used for making ice cubes and cleaning teeth. Water that is bottled (with intact seal), boiled, chemically disinfected or passed through a reliable filter  is usually safe, as are hot tea and coffee, beer, wine and spirits.

  • Milk should be boiled unless you are sure that it has been pasteurised.
  • Freshly squeezed fruit juice may be made with unwashed fruit; juice from sealed cartons is preferable.

Water Purification

Information on water purification is available here.

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