Choosing Safe Food While Traveling Internationally

My wife and I returned from a trip to Baltic region of northern Europe. I didn’t want anything to steal from the precious moments so, amongst other things, while there, I was constantly cognizant of food safety.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a universal food safety grade you could reference when traveling internationally? Now you do in the USA, Canada and the U.K.


If you have traveled international, I am sure you have shared my concerns:

• Sanitation is often suboptimal. Bathrooms frequently lack soap or clean paper towels.
• Food service workers apparently don’t often wash their hands and very few use gloves during food preparation.
• In some areas, food is exposed to flying insects or pedestrian traffic.
• Holding temperatures are neglected.
• Food & tableware is often on the table before customer arrival, for how long?

While we are traveling, I am cautious:

• To drink water from capped bottles and use glasses only when drinking wine or other alcohol.
• I try to choose foods that are hot or if not hot, at least were not in a cream based sauce.
• I avoid foods that may not have been adequately washed, such as salads & uncooked chopped vegetables.
• I avoid some meat, which may have been marginally cooked such as ground meats.
• When choosing foods from a buffet bar, I reach for the part of the dish that was farthest away from the serving line and avoid dishes that were largely picked over.

Fortunately, now, international travelers to Canada or the U.K have a standardized food safety resource with

I can proudly say that has internationally standardized the ratings in the United Kingdom and Canada and posted them on our website. Travelers can “Dine out with Confidence” in those international travel destinations.

What we give up in terms of the cultural experience to avoid the dreaded food borne illness is a sacrifice to stay healthy while traveling. Fortunately, the sacrifice paid off for us. We didn’t get sick while in in the beautiful Baltics.

Our trip is over, the precious moments were protected, and I have lived to tell you how to protect yourself, just as I did.


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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