How to prevent food poisoning in Nepal

August 22, 2023

To prevent food poisoning in Nepal, it is important to take certain precautions and follow good hygiene practices. In this blog, we are going to discuss food poisoning in Nepal and its prevention.

Traveling to foreign countries, including developing nations, presents certain challenges, and one such challenge is the risk of food poisoning. It is an unfortunate concern for travelers, as consuming unfamiliar foods increases the likelihood of falling ill. However, it is essential to note that the fear of food poisoning should not deter individuals from exploring different cultures and indulging in local delicacies. Thankfully, with proper precautions, the chances of experiencing food poisoning while traveling can be significantly reduced.

Nepal is renowned for its delectable and tempting cuisines, such as Chiura (beaten rice) cooked with eggs and onions, Bara (a type of pancake), Samosa, Mo: Mo: (a meat and vegetable dumpling), and noodles. Locally prepared foods are generally safer than foreign dishes since they are cooked daily and follow established cooking practices. Additionally, most Nepalese dishes are cooked at high temperatures, which helps eliminate harmful germs. Moreover, freshly cooked meals are preferred over raw or undercooked options. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that the risk of food poisoning cannot be completely eliminated.

To minimize the risk of food poisoning, it is best to avoid consuming any contaminated food. Raw and uncooked foods, known to carry a high probability of harboring germs, should be completely avoided. This precaution becomes even more critical when traveling with children or elderly individuals who may have weaker immune systems. Additionally, it is advisable to refrain from consuming beverages with ice, as tap water is often used in their preparation.

Since Nepali dining customs often involve eating with hands, it is essential to maintain proper hand hygiene to avoid stomach discomfort and potential food poisoning. Carrying a hand sanitizer is a must, and hands should be sanitized before and after meals, even after washing with tap water, which may contain bacteria. It is particularly crucial to have a sanitizer on hand during long treks or while traveling in areas with limited access to clean water.

Drinking tap water in Nepal without proper treatment is not advisable. When traveling to rural areas, it is recommended to use water purification tablets, fluids, or other purification methods to ensure safe drinking water. Chlorine is a reliable option for water purification, effectively eliminating harmful bacteria. Boiling water is another effective method, especially during treks. Although chlorine-treated water may not be as palatable, it is preferable to the discomfort of spending extended periods in the restroom. Piyush drops (chlorine packages) can be easily obtained in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

In the unfortunate event of contracting water-borne diseases, it is crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and using oral rehydration salts (ORS), also known as electrolytes. These can be purchased at any drug store, with brands recommended by medical institutions being preferable. Carrying a few ORS packets during your travels can aid in hydration and alleviate altitude sickness while trekking in higher altitudes.

Sterilization is an effective measure to reduce stomach discomfort. If consuming raw food, it is ideal to sterilize it before consumption. Properly scrub the food item to remove dirt and soak it in warm water with iodine or chlorine to eliminate bacteria or viruses on its surface. Portable utensils should also be sterilized before use. Pasteurizing milk by boiling it thoroughly is essential, especially in rural areas.

Quick Guidelines for food poisoning in Nepal:
Below we’ll be discussing different safety measures and preventions that we can make to prevent food poisoning while traveling in Nepal.

Seeking Immediate Medical Attention:
Food poisoning may seem like a common problem worldwide, but it can be a serious issue when trekking in high-altitude areas. Therefore, it is crucial to seek medical assistance promptly if you experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever. Treatment may involve rehydration therapy, antibiotics, or other medications. Remember to carry antibiotics for stomach-related issues when traveling to remote regions where accessing medical help can be challenging.

Avoiding Raw or Undercooked Food:
Just as it applies globally, it is important to avoid consuming raw foods as they can harbor harmful bacteria. While different cultures may offer tempting raw dishes, they can lead to significant health problems. Raw or undercooked food may contain pathogenic germs and viruses that cause food poisoning. Ensure that all food is fully cooked to eliminate these bacteria and reduce the risk of illness. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs, and fish as they can also harbor dangerous bacteria like Salmonella.

Ensuring Proper Cooking and Storage During Festivals:
In Nepal, where festivals are celebrated with a variety of foods, proper cooking and storage practices are essential. During large gatherings and festive occasions, leftover food from previous days may be present. It is important to ensure that the food is properly cooked and fresh before consumption. To prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses, cooked food should be stored at the appropriate temperature and served promptly. Store leftover food in the refrigerator or freezer.

Practicing Proper Food Handling:
Proper food handling is the first step in preventing food poisoning. When purchasing food, ensure that it is from reputable sources rather than small shops. Check the manufacturing and expiry dates before buying any products. From the time of purchase to consumption, handle food with care. Ensure that food is obtained from clean and reliable sources. Thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling food to reduce the spread of germs and pathogens.

Ensuring Proper Food Storage:
Proper food storage plays a crucial role in preventing food poisoning. Foods that require refrigeration should be stored at temperatures of 4°C or lower. Use airtight containers to avoid contamination, and label the storage date to ensure timely consumption within recommended time limits. Items stored in the freezer should be kept at -18°C or lower.

Maintaining Adequate Cooking Temperature:
Given that traditional cooking methods involving high flames are commonly used in remote regions of Nepal, it is important to ensure the proper cooking temperature of foods. The appropriate cooking temperature is crucial for eliminating harmful germs that cause food poisoning. Meat, fish, and poultry should be cooked to a temperature of 75°C or above. Reheating leftovers to a temperature of 75°C or higher is also recommended.

Maintaining Hygiene in the Kitchen:
While star hotels in Kathmandu maintain good hygiene standards, as you travel to remote regions, hygiene and sanitation may become concerns. Ensure proper sanitation while traveling in remote areas and consuming food prepared by locals. Cleanliness and hygiene in the kitchen are essential to prevent food poisoning. Clean all surfaces, utensils, and tools before and after use. Use separate cutting boards for raw fish, poultry, and meat to avoid cross-contamination. Regularly replace and maintain clean kitchen sponges and dishcloths.

Ensuring Water Quality:
One of the leading causes of food poisoning in Nepal is drinking water directly from sources. When traveling to village areas, be cautious before drinking water straight from taps or natural sources, as it may be contaminated. It is crucial to ensure that the water is suitable for consumption. The best method to eliminate harmful germs is to boil water for at least five minutes. Water can also be filtered using water filters or treated with water purification tablets.

Avoiding Street Food:
While MoMo and Panipuri are popular street foods in Nepal, it is important to note that local street food vendors may not maintain proper sanitation, which can lead to food poisoning. Therefore, it is advised to stay away from street food and opt for meals from reputable restaurants instead. Street food may not be prepared hygienically and could be contaminated with harmful bacteria.

Addressing Allergies and Intolerances:
Another defense against food poisoning is being aware of personal food intolerances and allergies. Foods containing allergens can cause severe reactions in individuals with allergies or intolerances. Food handlers should receive training in handling food allergies and intolerances, including proper detection and labeling of allergen-containing foods. Customers with food allergies or intolerances should communicate their dietary needs to food handlers to ensure safe and appropriate food options.

Washing Hands Before Eating:
In Nepal, eating with hands is a common practice, and not using spoons or forks during meals is customary. Therefore, thoroughly washing hands before eating is crucial in preventing food poisoning. Hands can easily pick up harmful microorganisms from surfaces, utensils, and equipment. To prevent the transfer of harmful microorganisms to food, it is important to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before eating.

Seeking Medical Attention:
If symptoms of food poisoning occur, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and avoid solid foods until symptoms subside. Ignoring symptoms while engaging in treks, tours, or climbing expeditions can exacerbate health issues.

Educating People:
Many communities in remote regions of Nepal lack proper education about health and sanitation. It is crucial to educate host communities about safety measures and the risks of food poisoning before implementing tourism plans. The government should prioritize education before promoting tourist attractions to ensure visitors’ good health and provide the best possible services. All stakeholders, from the public to the private sector, should prioritize this aspect before allowing tourists to visit these attractions.

Government Rules and Regulations:
Nepal currently lacks proper rules and regulations on food products, leading to wholesalers and retailers altering manufacturing dates for profit. Expired products are tampered with, changing the packaging to deceive consumers. Such cases are frequent and major causes of food poisoning in Nepal. Therefore, strict rules and regulations on food policies need to be implemented and enforced properly. This would be a significant step in preventing food poisoning in Nepal.

Implementation of Food Inspections:
In developed countries, food inspection officers are responsible for overseeing food safety in restaurants and malls. However, as a developing country, Nepal currently lacks these facilities. Although the city of Kathmandu has recently implemented food inspections, proper enforcement is still lacking. The Nepalese government should prioritize the establishment of food inspection facilities. Ensuring the sale and purchase of expired and contaminated foods comes to a complete halt.

In conclusion, if you find yourself unsure of where or what to eat during your travels, it is advisable to exercise caution and refrain from eating at nearby local eateries. Negligence in this regard can disrupt your travel plans. It is recommended to visit a pharmacy or consult a local medical professional for essential vaccinations, such as hepatitis A, as foodborne diseases can be transmitted through contaminated food and water.

Food poisoning requires vigilant care, particularly while traveling through rural regions of Nepal. However, it should not deter you from pursuing your travel goals. Remember, prevention is better than cure. By prioritizing your health and adhering to these precautions, you can savor Nepali cuisines and embark on memorable journeys without unnecessary worries.


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