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HIV & AIDS Health Center

Safe Food and Water for HIV Patients

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What should I do when shopping for food?

  • Read food labels carefully. Be sure that all dairy products that you purchase have been pasteurized. Do not buy any food that contains raw or undercooked meat or eggs if it is meant to be eaten raw. Be sure that the "sell by" date has not passed.
  • Put packaged meat, poultry, or fish in separate plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other groceries or each other.
  • Check the package that the food comes in to make sure that it isn't damaged.
  • Do not buy food that has been displayed in unsafe or unclean conditions. Examples include meat that is allowed to sit without refrigeration or cooked shrimp that is displayed with raw shrimp.
  • After shopping, put all cold and frozen foods into your refrigerator or freezer as soon as you can. Do not leave food sitting in the car. Keeping cold or frozen food out of refrigeration for even a couple of hours can give germs a chance to grow.

Is it safe for me to eat in restaurants?

Yes. Like grocery stores, restaurants follow guidelines for cleanliness and good hygiene set by the health department. However, you should follow these general rules in restaurants:

  • Order all food well done. If meat is served pink or bloody, send it back to the kitchen for more cooking. Fish should be flaky, not rubbery, when you cut it.
  • Order fried eggs cooked on both sides. Avoid eggs that are "sunny-side up." Scrambled eggs should be cooked until they are not runny. Do not order foods that may contain raw eggs, such as Caesar salad or hollandaise sauce. If you aren't sure about the ingredients in a dish, ask your waiter before you order.
  • Do not order any raw or lightly steamed fish or shellfish, such as oysters, clams, mussels, sushi, or sashimi. All fish should be cooked until done.

Should I take special measures with food and water in other countries?

Yes. Not all countries have high standards of food hygiene. You need to take special care abroad, particularly in developing countries. Follow these rules when in other countries:

  • Do not eat uncooked fruits and vegetables unless you can peel them. Avoid salads.
  • Eat cooked foods while they are still hot.
  • Boil all water before drinking it. Use only ice made from boiled water. Drink only canned or bottled drinks or beverages made with boiled water.
  • Steaming-hot foods, fruits you peel yourself, bottled and canned processed drinks, and hot coffee or tea should be safe.

Talk with your health care provider about other advice on travel abroad.

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