An Unexpected Street Food Red Flag Tourists Should Know Before Visiting Mexico

One of the pleasures of traveling throughout Mexico is experiencing the customary authentic food of the region. Unfortunately, safe procedures for food handling are not always the same from one place to another. It can be even more difficult to know what sanitary practices are in place at street vendors and food trucks you encounter while traveling. Many of the most important practices, like hand washing, wearing gloves, and preparing food to the right temperatures, could be in use. However, these protocols could fall by the wayside during a lunch rush when customers are impatient.


When approaching a street food vendor, watch the attendant to see what occurs between collecting payment and preparing food. If money is exchanged and then food is handled without the attendant stopping to change their gloves or wash their hands, this is a huge red flag. Currency carries some major germs that you do not want on your food.

Mexico has some of the very best street food in the world. However, there is a risk of contamination when choosing to indulge in such a tasty street treat, no matter which country you're in. Thankfully, there are ways to stay safe while enjoying street food. 

Watch out for these street food vendor red flags

Visiting a busy street in Mexico on an empty stomach will always end with you sniffing your hungry way to the most accessible street vendors. Your nose might not be the best guide when it comes to safety, but it can come in handy. If a stand stinks, avoid it. If you notice a lot of flies and other uninvited guests lingering on or around the food or stand, keep moving. Next, look around at the street vendors and notice which are ignored in favor of another vendor with a long line containing women and children. Skip the obvious unpopular choice and play it safe at the popular food stand.


While you're in line, take notice of what people are ordering and the storage of the food. Is raw meat kept refrigerated and insect free? Is there a sink for washing vegetables and hands? Watch which ingredients dwindle down the quickest and plan to order using the most frequently used. Avoid ordering precooked food, open to the elements. Instead, aim for stands that prepare and cook the food per order in front of you.

It's smart to skip the seafood as proper refrigeration isn't always possible. You should also skip the street salsa unless it's selling quickly. Most cases of food poisoning from street food in Mexico is due to salsa that has sat out and gathered bacteria for too long. Always avoid any water that isn't bottled, this includes even one ice cube. Avoid soft "crema" cheese and dried cheese sold on the street or elsewhere unless you've been in Mexico for months.


Best ways to safely enjoy street food in Mexico

If you speak Spanish, it's a good idea to ask vendors how long they've been serving food in that particular location. If the person has been there for 30 years, that's saying something loud and clear. Locals are also going to be the best ones to provide advice when seeking the best local eateries, and this includes street vendors. They may also be able to tell you which stands to avoid. This is also something a guide can do if you happen to have one along for the street food extravaganza.


Be sure to come prepared. Bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer, as it is imperative that you sanitize your hands before eating on the street. Considering bringing Imodium along — just in case. Staying observant while out on the street is a no-brainer and should be part of every dining experience while traveling. By remaining vigilant, you can take in the entire tasty experience.

Having a great time exploring Mexico while enjoying the excellent cuisine is something everyone should do. Sampling the customary food is a big part of the experience. Tacos in Mexico are so much better than they are in the States. Plus, you'll be able to pick up some amazing recipes to make on the next Mexican National Taco Day