Food safety while traveling in Guatemala
Scene a the Panajachel Market
My B&B guests often ask me whether it is safe to eat food served on the street and how to deal with fruits and vegetables bought at the market.
So here, after living in Guatemala for the past 25 years is my personal experience and opinion.
A few points on eating food on the street and buying fruit at the markets.
The scenario is the following: you go to one of the fabulous open air markets in Guatemala, wander around, buy a few mangoes, a melon, some bananas… and, as you walk around admiring all the beautiful vegetables and mounds of fruit, you peel the banana, throw the skin into the bag and eat the banana. That evening you have a rumbly tummy and later spend the night in the bathroom…
The thing to remember is that a lot of the fruit and vegetables come from small towns where it is washed in the ‘toma’. These are long, shallow man made canals that go through the fields and past the villages all over Guatemala. They are used for irrigation and a lot of rubbish goes into them as well as dirty water from sinks and elsewhere….
If you stop at a food vendor on the street, you will watch them cutting up fruit, placing the slices in a bag which they sell for Q5. It all looks very nice until you realize that they of course have no running water and that the knife they use is rinsed out with the small amount of water they have in a bucket under the table. It’s all luck really. You can eat a bag of that fruit and all will be fine, or, you get sick and a few days of your holiday are ruined.
Fruit can be easily cleaned in a couple of different ways. At the supermarkets you can find a product called Sanavida of which you put a cupful in a bowl or sink-full of water (If you don’t find this product, a cap-full of bleach also works well). Just place all your fruit and vegetables in it and leave it for about 15 to 20 minutes. I do this with everything, melons, pineapples etc. Don’t forget that all this produce has been handled by many hands….