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El Zagna
05-31-2002, 10:51 PM
Every year my family goes to Mexico for a week, and every year we worry about getting tourista (aka travelers diarrhea, Montezumaís Revenge, etc). Now, I know about all the rules about not drinking the water and avoiding fresh fruit, but frankly Iím not buying some of it. Some of the advice I keep hearing just doesnít pass critical thinking muster, so Iím asking you Dopers to help me out here.

Letís start with this from MDTravelHealth.com (http://www.mdtravelhealth.com/infectious/travelers_diarrhea.html) Do not eat fruits or vegetables unless they have been peeled or cooked.Indeed we followed this advice for a few years until it hit me that somethingís wrong here. I happen to live in Texas and I know that a lot of our produce comes from Mexico and points south, but when we are at home we donít bother peeling out tomatoes or boiling our grapes. We just rinse them under the tap for a second or two and thatís it. I realize that you canít trust the tap water in Mexico, but you can trust the bottled water, so why canít you just rinse them with bottled water?

Hereís another one from the same site, Avoid cooked foods that are no longer piping hot. Cooked foods that have been left at room temperature are particularly hazardous. Why? This happens all the time at home with no dire consequences. In fact I just got through eating a piece of pie that had purposefully been left out to cool. How is it that bacteria can burst forth from a sterile environment in one latitude and not another?

I donít know why this is sounding like a pit rant when Iím not even upset about anything.

Duck Duck Goose
05-31-2002, 11:30 PM
Well, the "do not eat fruits or vegetables" thing is to keep you from buying exotic fruit or veg from a street vendor and wolfing it down right there, peel and all. "Hey, cherries!" You don't know where they've been.

And, given that Mexico probably doesn't have as much food safety awareness as the U.S., it may be more likely that that quaint little taco stand is selling tacos that they actually made yesterday and have kept sitting at room temperature ever since, hence the warning to eat only food that's piping hot.

chula
06-01-2002, 01:24 AM
Originally posted by Duck Duck Goose
And, given that Mexico probably doesn't have as much food safety awareness as the U.S., it may be more likely that that quaint little taco stand is selling tacos that they actually made yesterday and have kept sitting at room temperature ever since, hence the warning to eat only food that's piping hot. I resent this statement. The problem is not that Mexicans are dirty, ignorant people but because the sanition facilities are inadequate in Mexico.

The CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/food-drink-risks.htm) says this regarding food temperature:Cooked food that has been allowed to stand for several hours at ambient temperature can provide a fertile medium for bacterial growth and should be thoroughly reheated before serving.I'm sure that imported produce is treated in some way before being sold, but I don't know how.

I'm sorry I can't be of much help. I go to Mexico frequently, but generally stay for at least a month and the mild diarrhea goes away after a week or so. I take no precautions at all. (I'm living on the edge! :)) The best remedy I've had is an herbal remedy a friend bought in Chinatown. I have no idea what the name is because the package is in Chinese.

Balthisar
06-01-2002, 08:03 AM
Originally posted by bnorton
...Now, I know about all the rules about not drinking the water and avoiding fresh fruit, but frankly Iím not buying some of it....I realize that you canít trust the tap water in Mexico, but you can trust the bottled water, so why canít you just rinse them with bottled water? snipped for brevity

A LOT of our produce comes from across our southern border, and sometimes bad things do happen. Wasn't it a couple of years ago that hepatitis-laden strawberries from Mexcio ensickened a bunch of school kids?

Some of the city water is perfectly safe to drink, but it depends upon the city, and in some cases upon the piping to the building. The city of Leon, for example, has perfectly potable water that's never made me sick.

When it comes to restaurants, common sense is usually good enough. If it looks like a place you wouldn't want to eat at in the USA (or wherever you're from), you probably would be better off avoiding it in Mexico. Well, I have gone contrary to that advice with no ill effects, but why risk it yourself?

By the way, most of the more civilized cities due have health departments that do sometimes close places down (but only if they're not in the syndicate/union).

Finally, the little puestos (carts and people on the corner) probably aren't a good idea -- after all, the owner must go to the bathroom at times, and I've never seen a place where they might wash their hands. :)

An aside: in Manzanillo last time we ate at a place that proudly touted their "hamburgers without microbes." Seemed good, and was the only meat I ate the whole week, since I'm not a red-snapper (or any fish) fan.

El Zagna
06-01-2002, 10:06 AM
DDG - I realize that it would be foolish to eat produce from a street vendor, but I wouldn't do that in the States either. If the CDC warnings just said to beware of street vendors produce, I would have no problem, but they say that we should peel or boil ALL produce before eating it in Mexico. Then why don't we do that in the States? The warning just doesn't make sense.

chula - Several years ago, before the Internet, I asked these same questions. I ended up talking to someone from the Department of Agriculture about what happens to produce that is imported from Mexico. He said that the only thing that his agency checks for is excessive pesticides, not bacterial infestation. All in all it apears that much (maybe most) of the produce that we eat in the USA is no different than that which we would eat in Mexico, so why the difference in the concerns?

By the way, I also asked him specifically about the lettuce in Mexico. He pointed out that lettuce was a cool weather crop, so most of the lettuce you see in Mexico, especially during the summer, probably was imported from the States.

bbeaty
06-01-2002, 02:16 PM
Avoid cooked foods that are no longer piping hot. Cooked foods that have been left at room temperature are particularly hazardous.

> Why? This happens all the time at home with no dire consequences.

And the natives drink their own tap water without dire consequences. Maybe it's because we're all fairly immune to local microbes, so we ASSUME that the cold food on our own kitchen counters have none.

Also, isn't Turista actually called AMOEBIC DISENTERY? As in, amoebas not bacteria? In a country which doesn't chlorinate the hell out of their water, any cold food which has touched freshly-washed dishes might contain freshly-deposited amoebae. Hot food would tend to kill complex critters.