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Ask Away: Street food safety

Samosas and pakoras, which are freshly deep fried in front of your eyes, are absolutely okay. 
I’m travelling to India later this year. I love Indian food, but am anxious to avoid gastro-dramas. I’m a meat-eater, but happy to go vegetarian for a spell if that’s the safest thing. Any advice?
Sharon Cook
I asked Swamy Akuthota, an Indian food expert who founded Auckland’s acclaimed Satya restaurants and has travelled extensively in India to research food.
He says the two problem areas are water-borne infections and viral infections.
To avoid the first, drink bottled water with tamper-proof lids from reputable stores.
Street food is generally safe if it’s being cooked in front of you at high temperatures. “For example samosas and pakoras, which are freshly deep fried in front of your eyes, are absolutely okay,” he says.
Cold mango lassis, which are freshly churned from full yoghurt trays are usually safe – go for disposable cups rather than glass, as the later may have been washed in stagnant water.
Fruit juice vendors squeeze from fresh fruit – and according to Akuthota, Indian fruits can have an intense flavour. Try a few until you find one that suits your palate.
Viral infections can be avoided by using a face mask in very crowded areas and using hand sanitiser before eating. “Try to eat at crowded popular outlets as the food standards are generally good and there is no stagnation of food,” he says.
And yes, avoiding meat is a good idea.

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