AIS Sports Nutrition

Food Safety

The last thing an athlete needs is to get sick before a major competition. Unfortunately exposure to a new environment can make this a real possibility, especially when food hygiene standards, sanitation and water quality are poor. There is risk of food, and water borne illness, even with local travel. Communal living, the stress of travel, and a heavy competition workload can reduce your immunity, therefore increasing your risk. Being aware of the risks and behaving responsibly will improve your chances of an illness-free trip.

Water and Drinks

It pays to be cautious with water safety. When in doubt about the water supply:

  • Use bottled or boiled water for drinking, cleaning teeth and rinsing equipment used for eating or food storage (NB. Water should be boiled for 10 minutes to kill all bugs)
  • Consume fluids from containers with unbroken seals that have been opened in your presence
  • Avoid ice in drinks
  • Drinks such as coffee and tea made from boiled water are usually safe, however the added milk may be a source of bugs
  • Avoid drinking water from the shower/pools etc.


The following tips will help minimise contact with food poisoning bugs:

  • Only eat food that has been cooked, can be peeled or has been washed in safe water.
  • Food should either be steaming hot or refrigerated. Avoid luke warm food from Bain Maries. Only eat foods that have been cooked thoroughly. 
  • Take care with, and perhaps avoid, fish, pre-prepared salads, soft poached eggs, rare meats, hamburgers, stuffed meats and pastries with cream fillings – these foods are common sources of contamination.
  • Avoid any fruit with damaged skin. Avoid citrus fruit and melons from street vendors as they may have been injected with water to make them heavier.
  • Avoid buying food from street side vendors. Choose food premises that look clean and busy. Check to see that raw and cooked food is kept separate at all times, cooked food is steaming hot and staff use serving utensils to handle food.
  • When eating from buffets, ensure chilled food is refrigerated or stored on ice and hot food is kept steaming hot. All dishes should have their own serving utensil and food should be protected from coughs and sneezes by a guard or lid.
  • Eat food bought from takeaway outlets immediately.

General hygiene

  • Always wash your hands before eating or handling food, and after going to the toilet or blowing your nose.
  • When preparing food, always keep raw foods like salads away from foods that need to be cooked like meat, to avoid cross-contamination
  • Use separate chopping boards and cooking utensils for cooked and raw foods

What to do if you get sick

  • See the team doctor if available, otherwise the manager or coach
  • Drink plenty of fluids as dehydration is the main danger with diarrhoea
  • Take an oral rehydration solution, to compensate for lost minerals and salts from severe diarrhoea
  • Stick to a bland diet as you recover. You may need to avoid milk, ice-cream and other foods containing lactose, at least in large quantities for a day or two – this includes most liquid meal supplements as well.
  • Rest, so that you can recover more quickly to get back into training
  • Think about what food you have eaten in the last two days to determine what may have caused the problem. Avoid and warn others about this food as well.
  • Do not handle or prepare food for others while sick.

This fact sheet is based on AIS / National team athletes and is therefore specific to these athletes. Written by AIS Sports Nutrition, last updated August 2009. © Australian Sports Commission.

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