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How NOT to Get Poisoned in Egypt


Page update - Aug 13, 2023

Poisoning is a very common problem for tourists in Egypt. What precautions should you take to protect your health? What food is the safest? And what kind of food is better not to taste? Read the answers on this page.

Recent news

On 6-7 May 2023, one of the worst mass poisonings in Egypt occurred. 382 people were poisoned by street ice cream in Qena governorate. 295 people were hospitalised. All are alive which can be called super luck!

And to make sure nothing like this happens to you, please read this page to the end!

Important points

Unfortunately, no amount of advice and following it precisely will eliminate the risk of poisoning completely. But our tips can help to minimize this risk.

We collected 15 best tips on this page. Of course, you should not follow them all blindly. The hygiene and food quality situation varies from hotel to hotel. Our aim is to inform our readers as much as possible. Which tip to follow and which not, it is up to you.

Fortunately, severe poisoning with fever, stomach and intestinal pains does not happen so often. Middle severe poisoning with diarrhea, constipation, and occasional bouts of vomiting occur more often. But let's face it, it's not unpleasant either. Our tips on this page will help to avoid all kinds of problems.




1. The 6 hours rule

Obviously, food spoils over time. And it spoils much faster in the hot Egyptian climate. Some people have been taught since childhood that food is sacred and should not be thrown away. Such habits play a cruel joke on tourists.

It is forbidden to take food out of the restaurant in the vast majority of All Inclusive hotels. However, the rule does not stop many tourists. They still take food with them to the swimming pool, to the beach, or to their rooms.

Remember the rule! If you took food from the restaurant, after 6 hours, throw it away without a shadow of a doubt.

The rule seems to be obvious and unquestionable. But Egyptians themselves often violate it and end up in hospitals. The Egyptian press often likes to write about it. Here are some very recent cases (this page was updated in August 2023).

On 1 August 2023, 24 people, including 14 children, were poisoned in Sohag province. They were poisoned by expired sweets at a children's party. Fortunately, all are alive.

On 14 August 2023, 9 people were poisoned in a village near Mallawi. They were poisoned from eating spoilt food prepared at home. Unfortunately, the press does not say what kind of food it was. Fortunately, everyone is alive.

We purposely choose to publish only cases WITHOUT fatalities. We don't want to scare our readers unnecessarily. But believe us, there are far worse cases. Throw the food away after 6 hours! Remember that there is more fresh food in the restaurant!




2. Remember! Meat poisoning is the most common

It is meat and chicken poisoning that is most common in Egypt. It is a national problem. Reports of mass poisonings (and often deaths) appear in the Egyptian press at least once a week.

To show how acute the problem is, let's just tell you about the latest such case. This page was updated in August 2023. The latest high-profile case occurred in April 2023.

Several people were poisoned in a restaurant in Ismailia. The city's sanitary services were forced to close the restaurant and confiscated 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of meat that was found to be tainted. Fortunately, all the victims are alive. And note that it was an expensive restaurant!

Therefore! NEVER eat meat dishes at street-food joints or street cafes. It's very risky.

Fast food chains are much safer, but the prices in chain fast-food places are high in Egypt. Burgers at McDonalds cost on average 1.5 times more than in other countries. For the details and prices in street-food and fast-food, see our review "How much money to take to Egypt".

Meat dishes are better eaten in mid- and high-end restaurants.




3. Alcohol poisoning

Great news! In Egypt, alcohol poisoning is almost non-existent. This is not Turkey.

In All Inclusive hotels in Egypt, alcohol is completely legal in 9 out of 10 cases. The manufacturer is Al Ahram Beverages. They have a special brand of inexpensive alcohol of medium quality for hotels. The brand is called Bolanachi. See the photo near how the bottles look, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen.

Look at the label on the bottle. If it says 'Bolanachi' on the label, you can safely drink it without worrying. The taste of these drinks is not the best, but they are safe. See our detailed review "Egyptian liquor" for more details and photos of these bottles.

If you see that the drinks aren't Bolanachi, then the situation is already complicated. It could be anything.

If you want to drink imported quality alcohol on vacation, then buy in advance. You can bring with you only 1 liter per person. See our in-depth review "What you can and can't bring into Egypt" for the details.

Or you can buy it at Duty Free. In Egypt, there are Duty Free stores in airports after customs control and even in cities and hotels. This is an important difference between Egypt and other countries. Duty Free shops are located right within the country, that is, not only in no man's land as it is common. Tourists can buy alcohol in these Duty Free stores within 48 hours of entry. See our review "Alcohol in Egypt" for more details.




4. Wipe dishes and cutlery in the restaurant

It's no secret that many hotels don't wash dishes very well. If you actively search for hotel reviews on the internet, you have probably seen such phrases as "they gave us forks with dried-on bits of food" or "the plates in the restaurant were dirty".

Unfortunately, this is a harsh reality of Egyptian hotels. And the problem of dirty dishes occurs not only in cheap hotels, but also in expensive five star hotels of famous world brands.

So, act simple and practical. Wipe cutlery and utensils before use. Antiseptic wipes are great for this.

They are currently (August 2023) inexpensive, near 2 Euros (or US dollars, or UK pounds) per 25 pcs pack. You should agree that this is a small price to pay for your health.

Wipe down dishes and cutlery for another reason. They're usually lying out in the open. Who touched them before you? Who sneezed on them and breathed on them? It's best not to think about it and take no chances, but just wipe it down with an antiseptic wipe.




5. Remember at dinner what you had for lunch

In All Inclusive hotels, Egyptians don't throw away unused food in the hotel kitchen after a buffet meal. They use this food for the next buffet meal. That is, for dinner they use what's left over from lunch, for breakfast they use what's left over from dinner, and so on.

Some of the dishes on the buffet may be from yesterday. They put them on the buffet until they begin to smell unpleasant or show other obvious signs of disrepair. Many of these products are dangerous to health and can cause poisoning.

Our advice. Remember what was offered for lunch and try not to eat it for dinner. Often the food changes its form. For example, chicken pieces were offered for lunch and became the filling in a potato casserole for dinner.

More often than not, such metamorphosis happens with vegetables, which turn into all kinds of salads. Salads should be avoided in the first place!




6. Avoid salads! Be afraid of salads!

Salads are the most dangerous kind of food. There are several reasons for that.

First of all. The ingredients in salads are not heat-treated, and therefore potentially more-more dangerous.

Second. Salads are often made with vegetables left over from a previous meal, as we discussed in detail in the previous section.

Third. Vegetables for salads are sometimes shoddy washed. Consequently, there is a little dirt left on the vegetables, with all the negative consequences.

Fourthly. Salads are dressed with mayonnaise or other dressing, and this dressing can 'outweigh' the bad smell or taste of stale food. For example, the tomatoes in the salad may already be slightly spoiled, but because of the overwhelming taste of mayonnaise you will not feel it and will not be able to stop eating in time.

The conclusion is obvious. Avoid salads! Be afraid of salads!




7. Do not eat "fesikh"

Fesikh is a traditional Egyptian dish of mullet fish. Fesikh is eaten on the festival of Sham Ennessim (also known as the Festival of Spring). Traditionally, the date of the Sham Ennessim festival always matches with Easter Monday (the Monday after Easter). For the public holidays calendar, see our page "Egyptian Holidays".

Mullet fish is first dried for about 24 hours (there are several methods of drying), then salted and allowed to stand for usually 5 days. The fish has a distinctive pungent smell, but tastes very good.

Drying and salting fish for fesikh properly is an art. If something is done incorrectly, pathogenic bacteria can multiply in the fish. For example, not enough salt or drying too slowly. Or worst case, if they cook not fresh mullet.

Every year after the Sham Ennessim festival, there are press reports of several poisonings, sometimes fatal. The most notorious case was in 1991 when there was a mass poisoning and 18 deaths.

For these reasons, we do not recommend tasting fesikh. To be honest, it is unlikely that you would want to. The smell of this dish is very pungent and not many tourists dare to take it in their mouths.




8. Do not eat any food decorations

Have you ever noticed that at the buffet table, a salad is decorated on top with a beautiful crown of carrots? Or the bakery table has pretty pretzels that have been lying there for a week?

You'd better not eat those decorations. Bread decorations are even problematic to eat as they are extremely tough.

When Egyptian chefs create these decorations, they often don't mean that it will be eaten. They just need somewhere to spend the food that still looks acceptable. The principle is "half a loaf is better than none".

If a decoration is left over from one meal, it is used at the next and so on as long as the appearance allows.

As pretty as roses and crowns look on a salad, it's best not to eat them. Health is more valued.

Although there are good All Inclusive restaurants where the decor is made with fresh and well-washed fruit and vegetables. This decor is eaten immediately by tourists and a new decor is made for each meal. As luck would have it.




9. Don't drink soda, drink water instead

The heat makes you thirsty. You tend to double or more you drink while on vacation in Egypt. The important question is how to satisfy your thirst?

Many choose soda as it is included in the price of All Inclusive accommodation. And soda water is usually sweet. As a result, tourists get a "shocking" dose of sugar, and the stomach and the organism in general may be completely unadapted to this dose.

An overdose of sugar can cause a host of symptoms. For example, sleep disturbances as a result of Orexin malfunction. Pimples may appear on the skin, as large doses of sugar produce more sebum. Mood swings, anxiety and even panic attacks may occur.

Large doses of sugar cause stomach and intestinal problems. For example, increased acidity and indigestion. And these symptoms are often confused with poisoning.

That's the HUGE danger of soda. You think there's something wrong with the food because you have indigestion. But the food has nothing to do with it, you just need to drink less sugary soda.

Drink less soda. Drink more water.




10. Vegetables, fruit and fresh juices

It is no secret that fruit and vegetables in hotels are often not washed properly. Germs often remain on the skin - which can cause poisoning.

Solution 1. Wipe fruits and vegetables with a wet wipe. Better yet, use an antibacterial wipe. Such wipes are inexpensive, as we discussed earlier on this page.

Solution 2. Simply cut the skin off - that way you won't get bacteria in your mouth.

The second solution has one important advantage. The problem of insect pests is very acute in Egyptian agriculture. Insects multiply faster in hot climates. In addition, the variety of insects in Egypt is many times greater.

How do the Egyptians deal with pests? Naturally, with heavy doses of pesticides. And they often pour for preventative purposes. Not surprisingly, many Egyptian fruits are banned from entry into the EU and other countries.

Pesticides remain mainly in the skin of fruits and vegetables. So if you cut off the skin, you automatically get rid of 99% of all pesticides.

Freshly squeezed juices are more complicated as you can't wipe it with a napkin. That's why juices always give a higher risk. Sugarcane juice, called "asab" in Egypt, is especially potentially dangerous.




11. Do NOT bring silver spoons and forks

Some tourists (of which there are not many) travel with their own silver cutlery. And they do it not for display, but precisely for the purpose of food disinfection.

This method is very effective. Silver ions are excellent at killing any microorganisms. There are even scientific studies that silver successfully fights the new coronavirus and even HIV. Naturally, silver cutlery and utensils disinfect food.

But we categorically do not recommend taking silverware on vacation to Egypt. The thing is that waiters at hotels have a nasty habit of taking away cutlery without even asking. You will lose your silverware with 99% probability by the end of your vacation.

This advice applies not only to Egypt, but also to Turkey, Tunisia and other countries with All Inclusive hotels.




12. Don't drink tap water

The quality of tap water in Egypt varies greatly from city to city and district to district. The water quality may even vary from house to house.

In Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities and resorts, the water comes clean. In Hurghada, Sharm el-Sheikh and other Red Sea resorts, the water is often desalinated and therefore slightly salty, but the water is drinkable.

The problem is something else. The water pipes are often in a high state of deterioration. This is a problem in most developing countries. The pipes need to be replaced, but there is no money for that. So the quality of water in Egypt is a big lottery. The water may be clean and drinkable, or it may be dirty and foul-smelling. In the latter case, the poisoning is guaranteed.

The conclusion is simple. Drink bottled water only. All Inclusive hotels give it without restrictions (if it is a good hotel). If you go without All Inclusive then take a taxi to the nearest supermarket and buy a big pack at once.

For example, right now (August 2023) Carrefour Egypt carries a pack of 12x1.5 liter bottles for 60 Egyptian pounds. For the current exchange rates of the Egyptian pound, see our page "Money in Egypt". A small price to pay for your health, don't you agree?




13. Not all products in Egypt are healthy

All food in Egypt is grown in the Nile River valley where the soil has always been very fertile. This was due to the silt that the river brought in every year. In 1970, a dam and a power station were built in the city of Aswan and the silt stopped flowing into the fields. But crop yields have not declined, they have only increased. Why?

The answer is obvious - mineral fertilizers. According to the statistics, 650 kilograms (1,400 pounds) of mineral fertilizers per hectare are used in Egypt (see statistics). By comparison, it is only 70 kilograms (155 pounds) in the US and 170 kilograms (375 pounds) in the UK. So Egyptians add 10 times more nitrates and phosphates to soil than Americans.

In terms of mineral fertilizer consumption per unit of arable land, Egypt ranks 11th in the world. If you look at the list, the smaller countries ahead of Egypt are Qatar, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuwait and the like. If you take those 'babies' out of the list, Egypt ranks 5th after New Zealand, Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and Colombia.

Many tourists notice that vegetables and fruit in Egypt are tasteless. This is logical. Vegetables and fruits sprout and ripen quickly under "phosphate-nitrate doping" and simply don't have time to gain flavor, sugar, and vitamins. If you put an Egyptian tomato in your mouth, you have to wonder: is there more harm or good in it for your health?

Unfortunately, there's no way to protect yourself from 'overdosing' on Egyptian food with phosphates, nitrates and other fertilizers. The only advice is to cut down on vegetables, which are the most likely to "suck up" substances from the soil.




14. And most importantly - Wash your hands before you eat!

And not just before you eat, just wash your hands periodically. It's the easiest, most obvious, and effective way to avoid poisoning.




15. What to do if you are poisoned

Seek medical advice. After all, poisoning is an insurance event and the insurance company will cover the cost of treatment. If you are flying to Egypt on a package tour, then most likely the insurance is with a deductible. That is, the insurance company will only cover costs above a certain amount. The first 50 dollars (or 40, or 30) you pay from your own pocket, and after that the insurance company pays.

As you have already understood from this page, poisonings happen to people in Egypt frequently. Egyptian doctors are very experienced. Everything will be fine.

Important and useful to know

- Poisonings are not the only trouble that happens to tourists. To be forewarned, read our reviews "What not to do in Egypt" and "How tourists are cheated in Egypt";

- We always pay special attention to the issue of children's health. Read our review "Vacation in Egypt with children".

Have a great vacation in Egypt, and read our interesting pages about the country (find the pages list below).

TIPS FOR TOURISTS

What Don't Do in Egypt

Cheats of Tourists in Egypt

What to Take to Egypt

Sharks in Egypt

To Egypt With Kids

How NOT to Get Poisoned in Egypt

National Holidays in Egypt

Weather in Egypt by Month

MONEY AND EXPENSES

What Money in Egypt

Money Exchange in Egypt

How Much Money to Take to Egypt

TRANSPORT

Taxi in Egypt

Cairo Metro

From Hurghada to Cairo

From Sharm to Cairo

From Hurghada to Luxor

From Cairo to Ain Sokhna

Intercity Buses - Guide

GIFTS, SOUVENIRS, CUSTOMS LAW

What to Bring from Egypt

What You Can & Not Bring in Egypt

What You Can & Not Take out of Egypt

ABOUT EGYPT

What Language is Spoken in Egypt

Who Are the Modern Egyptians

Friday & Weekends in Egypt

Ramadan in Egypt

TELECOM

Internet in Egypt Cheaply

RESORT REGIONS

Sharm El Sheikh

Naama Bay

Hurghada

Ain Sokhna

Mediterranean Rivera

BAD HABITS

Alcohol in Egypt - Prices & Rules

Local Egyptian Alcohol

Cigarettes & Smoking in Egypt

Vape and iQos in Egypt

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