I very much loved my work trip to Thailand.  We didn’t go to Phuket or Bangkok.  Not us hard-working auditors.  No.  We got on a connecting flight to Sukhothai which is one of Thailand’s seventy-six provinces lies in lower northern Thailand. Sukhothai can be translated as ‘dawn of happiness’.  And it really was a happy time.  A bit of work and a lot of touring and eating amazing food.  Of course, we were told not to eat any of the local food.  Do not drink the local water and definitely don’t eat from street vendors.  The little bit of advice that was magic was to specify that salad, if produced washed in the local water was to be avoided and no ice was to be added to drinks.  And it was very hot and humid there.  Fresh salad and a bit of ice would have been wonderful.  But, the ice is made from the local water, you see.  Anyway, I took all that well-wishing advice, largely offered by those who had not been to Sukhothai or Thailand for that matter, with a large grain of salt.  I ate anything and everything that was offered up and it was incredible.  I did not get a tummy ache or any other issues until the last day of our 10-day visit.  And then I was in trouble.  But so worth it!  And it was forgetting that ice advice.  If the water wasn’t clean or boiled before adding to the ice tray, a problem is waiting to thaw out.  I would suggest employing some good risk management before denying yourself all the wonderful food on offer.  But I do suggest avoiding ice in your drinks if you can’t be sure of the initial water source.

Another time and place.  This time a supposed ‘nice and safe’ fast food option in Melbourne, Australia.  This part of the world does not come with a warning to avoid all food.  It was a very hot and dry day.  The staff had obviously decided to be efficient and prepare small required amounts of chicken to be added to the many sandwiches about to be consumed by hungry shoppers.  The chicken pots were left out on the bench in readiness for the waiting rolls.  Within an hour of consumption, I was the sickest I can remember being.  Talk about being poisoned.  Always interesting when your brain can’t decide which orifice the food will emanate from.  The lesson here – if the chicken hasn’t been cooked all the way through and kept in the fridge, avoid like the plague.  For the record, much worse than the Thailand experience.  Just saying.

Some basic ideas as follows: keep self clean and wash hands well and often, especially after using the toilet, eating and smoking.  Give up smoking – couldn’t help myself.  Having worked for many years in a food laboratory, I was constantly surprised by the amount of faecal bacteria showing up on meat samples.  I’m talking bugs from poo, just in case that ‘f’ word was confusing.  The same year I visited Thailand, I also was lucky enough to fly to South America, South Africa and China.  Oh, and Melbourne, Australia.  After being ill for many months, the doctors suggested I had probably contracted Hepatitis A from either contact with contaminated stool or contaminated food and water.  Now I know I didn’t eat any furniture, (oh we are talking poo again) but the doctors said it could have come from anyone, anywhere not just overseas.  So clean your hands thoroughly.

Much of the population carry bacteria along with them every day.  They don’t get sick and the bugs just live happily within or on the body.  Bugs can cause food poisoning so keep cooked and raw food separated and refrigerate hot food as soon as you can.  Cook the likes of chicken and pork thoroughly.  Use different chopping boards for fresh and cooked foods.  Keep cooking utensils and surfaces clean – wash these regularly.  Keep your hair out of your cooking – tie it back.  Nothing like a long hair hooked out of the salad to encourage a hearty appetite – not!  If food looks, smells, tastes off, if any doubt, then throw it out.  Do not risk your health or that of those you are lovingly cooking for.  If you must reheat food, reheat completely then eat eat and don’t reheat again.

You are the most important person in your world.  Your health is the most important gift you have been given.  You need to eat and drink to survive so ensure that what you are putting into your body is not going to hurt you.

Practice food hygiene.