I have had the privilege of travelling a great deal and have never been ill as a result of food. With the recent concerns about health on a global scale, I started to think about people I know who have had illnesses, and why I have been so fortunate.
Of the 106 countries I have visited, many have been in the third world, and many have had much lower health standards than we are accustomed to here in Canada. In fact, complain as much as you wish, our healthcare in this country is fantastic.
When I travel I take several precautions: first of all, my rule about water is never broken. I only drink bottled water, and only if it has not been opened. Recently, bad people have been using crazy glue on water bottle caps (after re-filling them with street water) to make them appear brand new. Now my water rule has been extended to only buy water from stores or restaurants, in bottles, unopened. If I am not sure I turn to Coke or beer, as neither are likely to incubate anything bad (what does that tell you about the product)?
I never eat anything that can be washed in water, such as salads, fruits or vegetables. Veggies have to be cooked, fruit has to be peeled (by me) and salads are off limits. I remember being in China years ago, and watching someone wash lettuce in the same water they used to wash the laundry... enough said on that topic.
I always make sure my shots are up to date. Pharmacy Associates or Dr. Matt Shurter (both local) provide a travel medicine service, which is a must, no matter if you travel to Europe, the Caribbean or Africa. Illnesses change constantly and you have to be aware of them. Make sure your yellow fever, Hepatitis A & B (Twinrix), and anything else is up to date. I am not a big fan of Dukarol, but always carry Pepto-Bismol, as well as a prescription for severe wobbly tummy troubles.
I wash my hands before every meal, and use an antiseptic as well. I don't go out of my way to touch people and I avoid biting my nails, or putting things in my mouth that are not first inspected by me. I go so far as to carry a few pairs of latex gloves in my backpack, in case I have to help someone who I do not know. I once had to stop a woman's foot from bleeding, and certainly was glad I was able to put my glove on before I put pressure on the wound.
I never eat anything from street vendors or 'local' restaurants, unless I am 100% certain they are clean and sanitary. I know that even in 5 star eateries you are at the mercy of the lowest common denominator in the kitchen, but at least the finer establishments pay closer attention to cleanliness.
One last thing I do not do when travelling, is cut corners on food or drinks. Only brand name alcohol, beer and wine from unopened bottles. Alcohol fraud is becoming very dominant in the Caribbean and Mexico. Although it costs a little extra, it is money well spent.
Masks are interesting as many people wear them when travelling. They do more to keep the sickness inside the person who is sick, but do provide a minimum amount of protection for the healthy people. They do however, cause confusion when photographing a group of people, all of whom are wearing masks.