Food and health in Cancún.

Aug 1st, 2015, 12:47 PM
  #1  
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Food and health in Cancún.

I have read the travel guide from Fodor's about health and food in Cancún. And it states that one has to be careful of anything that is not peeled or raw such as lettuce and tomato and obviously the ice. I am not much for tourist traps and hotel zones, but prefer to be a little adventurous and find small local places with local people and since I speak fluent Spanish I can easily maintain a conversation with the locals. Now, Mexico is a lot about tacos and salsa and ceviche. Salsa is based on raw tomatoes. Ceviche is raw fish (although "cooked" by the lemon juice). How big is the risk to get sick from a fresh salad or ceviche or salsas at the local places, the simple places. I don 't mean for the local millionaires, but the regulars.
All information is appreciated.
CharlieTh is offline  
Aug 1st, 2015, 01:39 PM
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I don't know if this is an American thing or not, but do they drink frozen margaritas there? If so, how do you know what ice it is?
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Aug 1st, 2015, 06:16 PM
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That's pretty much standard advice for travel anywhere.
We aren't Cancun people, except for the airport, but in traveling around the Yucatan, eating and drinking pretty much exclusively in inexpensive local establishments, we've had no problems over several trips.
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Aug 1st, 2015, 07:37 PM
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Personally, I would avoid salads in the types places you describe. Probably salsas as well. Fact is, locals are just not big salad eaters. Tacos and such made as you watch, being able to see the meat grilled or shaved, would likely be OK. I have lived in Mexico full time for some 5 years and rarely get sick, but when I do, I can invariably trace it back to salsa. I always question what becomes of the salsa/pico de gallo that I leave on the table after I eat. I'm afraid to ask. I live in the central highlands where it's cooler, Risks of food borne illness increase with the heat. Rule of thumb, if you're gonna go local, eat at the busiest places and cross your fingers.
As far as ice goes, yes frozen margies are common. Ice will be from one of 3 sources: Tap water; bad. But very rare in touristy places. Ice machines with filtered water. Better, if they're maintained. Bagged and purified. Best. Usually identified by the cubes with holes in them. But blended, you'd have to ask.
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Aug 1st, 2015, 07:56 PM
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kja
 
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My understanding -- which could easily be wrong -- has been that the concerns stem from concerns about WATER-borne pathogens, and whether unpeeled or raw vegetables might have been washed in contaminated water. My understanding -- again, potentially mistaken -- is that the acids that "cook" ceviche would also "cook" any pathogens, rendering them harmless. Salsa is, I think, I bit trickier....

"Now, Mexico is a lot about tacos and salsa and ceviche."

Note that the Yucatan has its own culinary traditions that are, IMO, well worth sampling!
http://www.yucatantoday.com/en/topics/yucatecan-cuisine
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Aug 2nd, 2015, 04:28 AM
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I have noticed through the years that even the Mexicans drink bottled water. Although most locals do drink tap water (even our expat friends) they seem to prefer bottled. In all our years in the Peninsula, we have NEVER ever been sick and we eat just about anything even from the street vendors. This said, common sense comes into play here, if you see or feel that what you have ordered is not to your liking, Mexicans will almost always do their best to accommodate you...
Bottled water is cheap and is sold EVERYWHERE. Ice with circular indentations is the best and is given just about anywhere you go, again, if in doubt... ask !
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Aug 2nd, 2015, 08:59 AM
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My experience is on the Pacific coast, but I avoid salads or raw vegetables at "the simple places".

I would eat salsa pretty much anywhere, but I wouldn't eat lettuce or strawberries. Everyone draws their own line in the sand differently.

Most ice in most bars comes from a purified plant, they aren't making it from tap water, you can tell by the shape of the cubes.
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Aug 2nd, 2015, 12:03 PM
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That info is very outdated, bottled water is everywhere and very cheap, vegatables and such are normally soaked in a local solution called Microdyne (easy to buy everywhere if staying in a condo) which contains iodine. I also have never gotten sick in the area.
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Aug 2nd, 2015, 01:13 PM
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It isn't just that vegetables, etc., may be washed in contaminated water, it's that they may not be washed/sterilized properly at all as many plants are irrigated by contaminated river water to begin with. I wouldn't eat raw salsa 9f it has cilantro in it, or things like fresh herbs (eg, cilantro) in any off-the-wall questionable place. It isn't local vs. nonlocal, there are plenty of locals who lead regular middle class lives and go to malls in Cancun.
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Aug 2nd, 2015, 02:31 PM
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Thanks Jamie, but I just wonder if the local bars/restaurants also use that. We are going to stay on a hotel, but usually avoid the most touristy areas such as la zona hotelera.
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Aug 2nd, 2015, 08:36 PM
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Christina; and the working class such as farm workers, minimum paid workers? I doubt, but could be wrong of course, that they would go to the zona hotelera or the shiny malls in Cancún. But I may be wrong. But if 5 bucks a day is the minimum wage I doubt that they can afford to go to the malls if they have a family to take care of. But maybe they can have a beer every now and then at a cheap bar.
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Aug 3rd, 2015, 06:03 AM
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Although I tend to avoid Cancun, I've eaten at small, local places all along the coast of the Yucatan. Never had any problems. I do eat salad, I do eat salsa.

We do drink bottled water, also brush our teeth with it.

Years ago, I remember not being able to get ice in a drink on Isla Mujeres, but, that was a long time ago. And, only at one restaurant/bar.

I also do travel with a physician prescribed antibiotics, with very specific instruction on when to take them. I've only needed them once, that was in Nicaragua. I spend months in Mexico and Central Anerica every year.
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Aug 3rd, 2015, 11:33 AM
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Yes they do Charlie, I have eaten at places in Akumal Pueblo and Tulum Pueblo for example, and they all have bottled water. Once I even drank filtered water at the Lol-Ha in Akumal with no ill effects.
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Aug 3rd, 2015, 05:18 PM
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kja
 
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FWIW, here's a link to relevant info on the CDC's website:
http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbo...nations/mexico
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Aug 4th, 2015, 10:14 AM
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I drink bottled water and brush my teeth with it, and I avoid lettuce but eat salsa and tomatoes. As someone above said, everyone has to decide for themselves where to draw the line. I have also observed that most Mexicans drink bottled or purified water, too.

We generally eat in very, very simple places in Mexico because we are birding and hiking in remote areas.

The two times food made me unwell both happened after fancy hotel restaurant meals. Once, I had gastro issues for many days, but Immodium worked. The second time, I had gastro issues for a few hours and that was it.

I share that lovely information only to make the point that the illness, in my case, was unpleasant but not dangerous.
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Aug 4th, 2015, 11:01 PM
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Nice Post!!! I suggest you go to down town Cancun is better cheaper and more fun, you might ask yourself how to get there, it is very easy if you are in the hotel area (tourist area) you get out and take the taxi service (if you want to take it simple) oh, if you want to come back to the hotel you take the same taxi service and it will take u back to your hotel. Now if you have a best rental car I suggest you Oscarcancunshuttle which provides best transportation service from Airport to any hotels or areas.

Thanks!!!
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Aug 8th, 2015, 12:46 AM
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*Bump*
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Aug 8th, 2015, 12:51 AM
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kja
 
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I don't know how you can get better info than checking the CDC website and it's pages....
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Aug 11th, 2015, 10:43 PM
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Thank you all for your help and information!
CharlieTh is offline  
Aug 19th, 2015, 11:55 AM
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re: Ice
Most food establishments have their own osmosis and or ultra violet systems that they use for drinking water, washing and cubes.

City water is treated. Some locals drink it and brush their teeth with it. I brush with it, wash my dishes/foods and cook with city water. I would think twice about doing this in any small village that uses well water here and anywhere else. It's not so much the well water here in the villages as it is with the plumbing to get the water to you. The lines may be too close for comfort to septic lines.

Like home, I don't ingest large quantities of city water. I have an osmosis/ultra violet. I also have a water softener - the water down here is very rich in calcium.

I also eat all kinds of fruits and veggies. I do stay away from sushi and cerviche on the hottest days.

Iodine;
Really isn't all that effective. A drop of bleach is cheaper and works better.
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