The definitive guide to avoiding food poisoning in Thailand

Thailand may be the country that has the most how to articles and guides written about it. A whole lot of these are food-hygiene related. Why have the audacity to title yet another one as the definitive one? Well, I will keep updating this one and will pay special attention to any comments you might post below. If you spot something missing, just tell me. I interlaced the article with pictures just to remind you how delicious Thai food is, in spite of these precautions.


The following rules apply generally, but especially for street food.

IMG_20150815_165716Smell your food and rinse/peel fresh fruit and vegetables well. This is a fairly recent recommendation of the Thai Ministry of Health. A study has shown that an increasing amount of vendors are using borax, sodium hydrosulfite, pesticides, salicylic acid, formalin and salbutamol. These are toxic and not fit for human consumption. Food with a strong smell should be avoided.

IMG_20151009_134931Order food that is prepared to order. Any food that lays around after being cooked will cool and provide a feeding ground for bacteria.

IMG_20151011_152528Choose a restaurant/vendor that has plenty of customers. The more is sold, the less there is opportunity for food to go bad.

IMG_20151011_152731Refrigeration is a strong benefit. Swarms of flies aren’t.

IMG_20151015_084121Avoid putting ice in your drink and never drink tap water. Most ice is OK, but some really isn’t.

IMG_20151020_194959Don’t eat Somtam (or any dish) with fermented fish (‘plaa raa’, often pronounced as ‘palaa’) or black crab. Papaya salad (‘Somtam’) without those two ingredients is called Somtam Thai.

IMG_20151028_125215Rinse your plate and cutlery before use, if feasible. If not, wet wipes are an option as well. Often, plates aren’t cleaned in water that is sufficiently hot to kill bacteria. When available, use disposable chop sticks.

IMG_20151114_181358Wash your hands often.

If you are visiting for a holiday of a few weeks, eat your street dishes are at food courts, where hygiene standard are higher. You don’t want to spend those precious few weeks on the toilet, now do you?

If you do get a case of the liquid intestines, your first resort should be a product like Imodium Instant (available in Thailand at Boots). If not effective (which it often isn’t), I have had swift results with Ciprofloxacin. Yes this is an antibiotic and quite strong, but may be a necessity.


Leave a Reply