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  • Writer's picturegfmeade7


It is that time of year when everyone sets off on their holidays and you will be catapulted out of your normal eating routine and probably trying all sorts of foods that you would normally never taste. This can come as a shock to the system never mind finding out a new allergy you did not know about but most of all maybe ending up bedroom bound for a few days with a severe bout of food poisoning. There is no greater way to have your well earned holiday ruined bar cancellations or accidents.

Depending on where you go will determine how safe the cooking is. Within Europe you are fairly okay but as you head south or east of the continent you need to be more careful of your consumption. The EU food hygiene standards are not universal outside this area and I would be dubious about some of the countries even within it. The same cautious approach applies everywhere though; if you stick to a few tried and trusted basics then your plumbing will not easily come undone.

In food safety world we teach that just because something looks and smells fine that it must eat fine too and of course nothing can be further from the truth. A piece of meat could be happily multiplying harmful bacteria in their millions on the inside and taste just fine too but can then have you glued to a toilet seat or chained to an IV drip within hours. So it is buyer beware at all times. We have high and low risk foods, the proteins like meat, fish and dairy products are going to be more susceptible to contamination than say bread, fruit and vegetables.

Another myth is that it is not always the last meal that is the culprit, some bouts of tummy bug might take a few days to incubate and wreak havoc on your body so it could be something you ate a couple of days previous and there was an interim war going on in your tummy with your defences finally succumbing to the invading bad bugs from that piece of meat. Some people will fall victim straight away if immunity is low like the very young, elderly, ill or pregnant diners. Others have constitutions of an ox and can fight off anything; it is just a gastronomic lottery.

So what do you do when it happens here or abroad? Of course you inform the premises, they will, if acting properly, take your details, check their systems and then get back to you promptly if everything was done right their end. If there were no other cases then chances are it was not them as they will have sold loads more of exactly what you ate so they would be getting more complaints besides yours if they were guilty. Do not expect admissions of guilt, apologies or free meals.

If you are not happy with this then you take it to the local health board and their health inspectors or food safety police and they will visit the premises and check for themselves if all was done correctly. They will know the place anyway from their annual inspections. Then they will relay the same message if true and then you have nowhere else to go except to get better. These days if a place does get it wrong then you can get the lawyers and go to town but food operators are for the most part playing their part but like all sectors there are the rogue traders.

As ever if something is too good to be true then corners have been cut. While away and if with language barriers, meaning can be lost in translation so play it safe is what I always advise. If you are an adventurous eater do check that the place has a good reputation, ask enough questions about ingredients and recipes so that you are fully informed and then you can then make sound decisions on your menu choices. After all you just want to get home in one piece. Bon Voyage.

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