Istanbul and Selcuk and food safety

How careful do we need to be about food safety. The doctor at our travel health clinic advised caution when eating fruits, salads etc. Is this really a problem in high-traffic areas like Istanbul and Selcuk?

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1007 posts

Well, all I can say is that on a tour we took, nine of the twelve of us got sick at one time or another. What we had lasted several days and was pretty miserable. Since we got sick at different times, it seems reasonable to conclude that whatever the bug was, it was widespread. I would take the following precautions. Deal with water as if you were traveling in Mexico, not forgetting toothbrushing water. If you are staying at hotels where dinner buffets are part of the package, be very careful. I think stuff that sits around being kept warm, may be more of a hazard than fruits and salads. I'd also avoid mayonnaise or creamy dressings. Pack some imodium.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

It really depends how sensitive your stomach is - the only thing to really avoid is tap water. I spent over one month in Turkey and never got sick (or indigestion of any kind). I'm a "fish-atarian" and predominantly ate mezze/salads/veggies and grilled fish (so I can't speak for kababs). I also bought fruit (amazing apricots) and cheese at local markets and had no problem. I don't think it would be any different than traveling to other foreign countries - Istanbul has all kinds of food, from street food to sophisticated cusine.

Posted by Rob
Dunwoody, Georgia
235 posts

I've never had a problem in Istanbul or Selcuk. In general I've found that tap water and food served in restaurants is safe just about everywhere with risks identical to those you would face in the U.S. from improper food handling. I've never taken precautions. That being said, I did have a problem once in the Adana area many years ago with an intestinal parasite. I suspect it was from a mezze made with vegetables that had been washed in contaminated water or as a result of cig kofte (raw lamb meatballs) I ate. I hope my one isolated experience does not scare you. The bottom line is that you should be fine eating and drinking what you'd like in Istanbul and Selcuk. Have fun!

Posted by Carol
Martinez, CA, USA
522 posts

In 2011 we spent 24 days in Turkey including 8 in Istanbul and 3 in Selcuk. In all of our time in Turkey we never got sick. We ate the breakfast buffets, we ate fruit at a market and ate it after wiping it off and ate watermelon at a roadside stand. I wondered if we would get sick after the watermelon as we were at the end of a day of sightseeing and it was hot so we ate several slices, but we did not. It may come down where you eat, your constitution, and just plain luck!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2507 posts

If it's a matter of a sensitive digestive system, try eating yogurt every day for a week or so before you leave, and continue to eat or drink it while you're there. I was in Turkey for seven weeks and never had a problem.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

Unless you are pregnant, or have a compromised immune system, I do not see a reason to be concerned in Istanbul or Selcuk. My family (including children) never had a problem with eating in Istanbul (and we did some adventuresome eating). We were only in the Selcuk area one day, and had a lunch at a carpet factory including raw fruits and veggies and had no problem. We did drink only bottled water. I know the fruits and vegetables are grown and washed in the regular water, but it wasn't a problem for us.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

My daughter-in-law lives in Istanbul about six months out of the year. I stay at her place. When I'm thirsty I head for the kitchen sink just like anywhere else.

Posted by Mark
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, USA
62 posts

I spent 21 days touring Turkey last October, ate anything and everything that looked good to me and never got sick. The sole exception was being laid up for several hours after overindulging in dried Apricots, which are a favourite of mine and very inexpensive in Turkey. For beverages I stuck with bottle water and hot tea as well as Coca Cola.

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

On the RS Istanbul tour I did in 2011, our guide, Mert, advised us to drink only bottled water. It's easily available and very cheap. Several people in the group did get sick, but they had all eaten mussels.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

I find some people are more susceptible to food issues than others. Fortunately I seem to be less than most - possibly because I grew up in San Diego and ventured regularly into Mexico. Some people have problems with water anywhere in Europe. If that would be you, stick to bottled water. If you generally don't have problems, and it looks and smells fine, you are probably okay. I can see a guide recommending bottled water, as an abundance of caution. If you think bottled water is the best idea for you, it's good advice to remember your toothbrush water. The food rule is almost the opposite of earlier advice. Anything cooked (and kept heated) is fine. Cooking kills the germs. Raw vegetables and fruits (unless you can peel it) are more likely to cause stomach problems.

Posted by Devon
Ballwin
818 posts

I've had food issues in some places, but didn't have any problem in Istanbul. I brushed my teeth with tap water and everything. I also ate street food (kebabs, donuts (lokma), corn, fresh squeezed juice) all the time. Ate some salads and uncooked veggies too without issue. I can't promise you that you won't get sick, but I didn't have a problem.