Dining and Indulging Do's and Don'ts

Typical restaurant and household food disinfectant

Visitors to Oaxaca should not be afraid to drink water in restaurants, avoid ice, or shun produce. In fact even street fare can be enjoyed. This is not medical advice, but merely an opinion designed to assist vacationers to the city. Do exercise caution since Mexico is third world, where health and cleanliness standards are often different than those in the west.

Here are 8 “facts” or rules that might make your vacation a richer culinary experience than it would otherwise be, although perhaps adding some paranoia:

1) Restaurants use bottled water whether serving it plain or as a fruit juice mix, and in making ice cubes.

2) Restaurants disinfect produce using special disinfectant or a bleach solution. Of course things do slip through the cracks and staff can be sloppy...anywhere.

3) If tempted to eat on the street watch for the server’s cleanliness and food handling. If you see a 19 liter blue plastic bottle alongside the eatery, it’s fairly safe to assume bottled water is being used. But you won’t see disinfectant, so to play it safe have your quesadilla without greens. With the popular corn on the cob or kernels in a cup, if the water is boiling, you’re probably safe….but chew the kernels well, since they are not the easiest food to digest even when our stomachs are not under stress from unusually rich and spicy indulging. If you are in a marketplace towards day’s end, tempted to have a meat plate, note that the beef or pork has probably not been under refrigeration. If it’s chicken, again remember the time of day, determine if it will have to be reheated, and in any event watch to ensure the poultry is well grilled. Does the sauce contain peppers which have not been well cooked?

4) Rather than buy a cup of peeled mango or grapefruit, do it yourself. You don’t know if the vendor’s knife has been cleaned with purified water, how long the fruit has been exposed, or if the preparer’s hands have gone over the peel and then onto the naked fruit. Why trust the preparation methods? However if you control the cutting and peeling, hopefully you’ll be vigilant and get the gist of this point. Buy a knife and use it to peel fruit, even if you see a small label noting American produce. Others have handled it before you.

5) Anything with a wrapper such as ice cream or candy, should be safe.

6) Urban locals are also vigilant, so if you see a number of perhaps middle class or reasonably educated Oaxacans at an eatery, it’s probably fine assuming it has a reputation for safe fare. Many street-side haunts exist around the city and popular market day restaurants.

7) At the first sign of stomach problems, don’t wait to see if they dissipate. Your vacation doesn’t have to be a wipe-out. Pharmacies have effective non-prescription meds. Ask us for a recommendation for either our opinion as to the medication of choice, or the name of a doctor accustomed to treating such ailments

8) You can become ill dining at white linen restaurants too. They’re not immune to running afoul of rules of safe food preparation.

Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ) ©

The Starkman’s Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ) combines the best of bed & breakfast Oaxaca (quaintness and personal touch) with the comfort and service found in the best downtown Oaxaca hotels. The Casa Machaya Oaxaca accommodations have the added advantage of co-owner, Alvin, a Oaxaca destinations expert for a major international travel website, who provides Oaxaca tours to both house guests and those lodging elsewhere, both in downtown Oaxaca and in the surburbs.