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Reader Question: Feeding Kids and the Risk of Foodborne Illness

Foodborne Illness | Stroller Packing

It’s time for a reader question!  Maggie O writes

“I have a question about food in Latin America for a 12 month old. We are headed to Lima in late August, my son will be 14 months and right now eats 100% table food and almond milk. How do you handle feeding them since there is risk of sickness? Would I go back to Gerber? Or is anything safe?”

Great question!

Like many safety-related questions, the answer depends largely on your level of tolerance to these issues. We generally don’t worry an extreme amount about this kind of stuff. The kids follow the same rules as we do as adults – I don’t really take any extra precautions above and beyond what we do. We also just feed them the same food that we eat on principle both at home and on the road for the low-hassle factor.

So in countries where you are worried about waterborne and/or foodborne illness, here are some basic principles, applicable to everybody who is traveling:

– Drink only bottled water.
– Use bottled water to brush your teeth
– Don’t accept drinks with ice cubes in them. The drinks may have come from a bottle, but the ice may have been made with tap water.
– Any (well) cooked food or packaged food is fine to eat.
– For fresh fruit, stick to fruits that have peels like bananas, coconut, or citrus.

In general we are pretty strict about the water rules, but tend to be less strict about the food rules. Let your intuition be your guide – if something seems sketchy, don’t eat it. If it seems like it’s coming from a clean place, it’s probably fine. We definitely bought stone fruit from a fancy grocer in Lima and ate it without thinking twice. We are more careful with street vendors.

The one thing I’m not sure about is accessibility to almond milk. I know that many countries other than the US buy their cow’s milk in shelf-stabilized form – it comes in cartons that can be stored unrefrigerated until opened. But if he’s on almond milk because of a dairy sensitivity, you might be going with bottled water and juices if you can’t find any almond milk (or if it’s prohibitively expensive). Just make sure he’s getting enough extra calories from food to make up for the ones he won’t be getting from the almond milk.

Do you have thoughts on eating with your kids in a country with food- and waterborne illness concerns?  How do you handle it?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Heather Morrissey July 2, 2014, 10:53 am

    I basically have a zero tolerance for consuming any questionable food and/or water while traveling. We have been sick once from a foodborne or water borne illness while traveling (in Turkey) and it can really put a damper on a trip. But I worry more about the kids and their immature immune systems when it comes to food and water borne illnesses while traveling. So this means that we do not ever eat food from street vendors. But honestly, we don’t eat from street vendors here in the U.S. either, so I don’t really feel like this is limiting our experience abroad. I also tend to travel in order to see different sights and experience the culture, but not so much the cuisine of the local culture, if that makes sense. We will try out local foods and dishes, but we would rather pay a little more and buy it at a restaurant than take a chance and buy it from a street vendor. We do, however, eat and drink at pubs with reckless abandon 🙂

    • Amy July 2, 2014, 11:00 am

      Those are really good points, Heather, and I really appreciate your alternative perspective. Street food is a huge part of my/our experience of a foreign country, so I can see that if it isn’t for you, it’s not such a big deal to avoid. I’ll make sure the OP gets to read your thoughts!