Safe Food for the travelers10 August 2017

In today’s world of air and chair car travel, the emphasis is on traveling light. There is hardly any scope for carrying home cooked food and having it on the way as it used to happen 20 years ago when a journey itself used to be an event and a great deal of preparation used to go into it including carrying the food and the water. The destination also usually was with a relative where the guest was god and due care was taken to provide the best possible for the guest. Today we work out of suitcases and travel at the drop of a hat, there is hardly any preparation and it is assumed that good food is available everywhere.

Contaminated food can result in a host of diseases, mostly gastrointestinal like food poisoning and gastroenteritis, typhoid and hepatitis (leading to jaundice). However there can be much more serious neurological illness and sepsis. Repeated exposure to pollutants can even be carcinogenic.

Most of this can be avoided by following a few simple measures:

  • Take care of the water: Water is the commonest cause of spread of disease and drinking clean water can avoid a large number of them. Tap water may not always be safe. Various commercially available filters can make it safe. RO (Reverse Osmosis) filteration is considered to be the best but also leads to a loss of essential minerals. The easiest was to ensure good water is to boil and cool water before drinking. Bottled mineral water is safe, however there are a lot of spurious brands flooding the market and one needs to be careful.
  • Take Care of the food: The most important thing to remember is that most organisms cannot survive cooking. Hence if you have hot thoroughly cooked food, the chances of contamination are nil. This has been there in our culture from ages when food was cooked and served directly in the kitchen, we have realised it only now. Hence do not have uncooked food, which includes salads, peeled fruit, chaat, unboiled and improperly stored milk and milk products, deserts and ice-creams. Do not have stored food, insist onhaving food immediately after cooking and having it hot.
  • Personal Hygiene: Back to the basics- we all learnt in school that trim your nails and wash your hands before meals. We still do it at times because we are too busy. It has been shown that hand washing is one single act which can save us as well as others from a large number of diseases which can spread. It is not just about washing hands it has to be done properly with soap and water going to all the nooks and crannies of the hands. Clean utensils are also an important thing which can be ensured by using either disposable plates and glasses or getting the plates washed again in boiling water before eating. One should eat from places where the food servers and handlers are neat and clean and well turned out.
  • Type of food: Vegeterian food is easier to digest and may be a better food to have while travelling. Alcohol should be avoided as it can lead to a whole lot of problems

We have been taught so many things by our parents and our school. Most of these are actually effective in terms of saving ourselves from food borne disease, so the single most important message would be to ‘ go back to school’ and simple follow what we have always known.