Travelling with a child makes you a lot more conscious about food safety and diseases. In my early twenties I wouldn’t have thought twice about eating some foreign looking thing on a stick served up by the side of the road, but now I’m not so sure. But food, in particular street food, is a massive part of why we travel and heading to South East Asia, I just don’t want to miss out!
So here are some things to consider when eating on the road and enjoying the street food.
Wash your hands thoroughly before handling any food
And none of this, wave your hands under a cold tap for 2 seconds business either! For any bacteria to be killed, you need warm water, hands lathered in soap and a good scrubbing for 20secs. Use a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content for added protection or if washing facilities are hard to come by.
Avoid drinking the water
Whether it is a glass of, in the form of ice or just brushing your teeth. Contaminated drinking water is one of the leading causes of illness to travellers and most of the tap water in South East Asia is unsafe to drink. Bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella are some of the most common causes of water borne illness, but they can also be caused by viruses, protozoa and chemical pollutants. So stick with bottled water and make sure the seal hasn’t been broken. Also, we’re taking some water purification tablets with us in our First-Aid kit. These make water safe for drinking by killing water borne organisms that cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea. All you do is add one tablet per litre of water then leave for 30 minutes before drinking. Easy! We’ve also got some electrolyte tablets ready to go in our First-Aid Kit in case we do get sick from the water, even after all of our precautions.
Easy target for bacteria
Whilst raw vegetables and food may be appealing, they are an easy target for bacteria, especially if it has been sitting in the sun for a while. According to Victoria’s Department of Health, food sitting for longer than 4 hours at a temperature of between 5-60 degrees is like candy for bacteria. Cool/raw foods should be kept cool below five degrees and hot food cooked at 60 degrees and over.
Follow the locals and crowds
Food borne illness is not only restricted to travellers and it’s not just because we are not use to the foods. Locals get sick too and you won’t see them going back to the same vendor if they do. Not only is a popular vendor a sign of good food, it also means they will be producing the meals faster and they won’t be sitting on a tray in the hot sun waiting for hungry tourists!
‘I’ll have it well done thanks!’
If you are tempted by those meat sticks, make sure you put it back on the BBQ for an extra few minutes to ensure it is totally cooked through. Cooking food over 75 degrees kills most of the bacteria.
Keep the peel on
Choose fruit with the peel on rather than the pretty cut up fruit salads that will constantly pass you by. The peel will obviously protect the inside of the fruit from any bacteria, although those with more porous exteriors are often more susceptible to contamination. If you are drawn to the fruit, stick with citrus fruits with high acidity.
How’s your immune system?
Our immune systems are all different and whilst one may tolerate a bit of uncooked chicken, another will be making friends with the loo for the next few days. Little people under 10 don’t have the immune strength adults do and those over 55 years old will see a decline in their resistance. We of course will be taking extra care with Jack to ensure we can avoid as many situations for food contamination as possible. Mind you, I will be packing a few extra nappies and a change of clothes to have on hand just in case!
Do you have any tips for eating street food that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments section below…