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How to Avoid Food Poisoning in the New York City Street Food Scene

New York City is famous for its street food scene, offering a diverse range of delicious meals. However, with so many vendors and carts scattered throughout the city, it can be challenging to know which ones are safe to eat from. Food poisoning is a real concern, and it can take the fun out of your food adventure. Luckily, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of food poisoning when eating street food in New York City.

Choose Your Food Vendor Wisely

Not all street food vendors are created equal. Some vendors have a better reputation for cleanliness and food safety than others. Before purchasing any food, always look for vendors who are licensed by the city and who have a good rating from the health department. You can also ask locals for recommendations or use apps like Yelp or Google Maps to find highly-rated vendors.

Check the Food Temperature

One of the most critical factors to consider when buying street food is ensuring that the food is hot and cooked thoroughly. Food that has been sitting out at room temperature for too long can harbor dangerous bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Therefore, it’s essential to check the temperature of the food before consuming it. The food should be steaming hot, and the vendor should have a way of keeping food hot, like a heating tray.

Wash Your Hands

Before eating street food, it’s essential to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If you don’t have access to a sink, use hand sanitizer. Washing your hands is vital because it prevents the spread of bacteria and germs that could cause food poisoning.

Avoid High-Risk Foods

Some foods are more likely to cause food poisoning than others. Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and eggs, as well as unpasteurized dairy products, should be avoided. Also, be cautious of foods that have been sitting out for a long time, like salads and sandwiches. If you’re unsure about the food’s freshness, it’s best to avoid it.

Be Careful with Condiments

Condiments like ketchup, mustard, and mayo can harbor bacteria if not handled correctly. Make sure the condiment containers are clean and not sitting out in the sun. If possible, ask for individual packets of condiments instead of using a shared container. Additionally, avoid any condiments that have been sitting out for an extended period.

Trust Your Senses

If something smells bad or looks off, don’t eat it. Trust your instincts and err on the side of caution. If the food looks or smells questionable, it’s best to avoid it altogether. Your senses are your best defense against food poisoning.

Bring Your Own Utensils

If you’re particularly concerned about food safety, consider bringing your own utensils and plates. This will ensure that you’re not using utensils that have been sitting out in the sun or have been washed improperly. Additionally, using your utensils will minimize the risk of cross-contamination.

Be Prepared

Despite your best efforts, you may still get sick from eating street food. It’s essential to be prepared for such situations. Make sure you have plenty of fluids on hand, like water and electrolyte drinks. You may also want to carry some over-the-counter medications for nausea and diarrhea. If your symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention immediately.


Eating street food in New York City can be a fun and enjoyable experience, but it’s crucial to prioritize food safety. By following the tips outlined above, you can minimize your risk of food poisoning and enjoy the vast array of delicious street food that the city has to offer. Remember to choose your food vendor wisely, check the food temperature, wash your hands, avoid high-risk foods, be careful with condiments, trust your senses, bring your utensils, and be prepared. Bon appétit!

If, despite your best efforts, you do end up getting food poisoning from eating street food in New York City, Sickday can connect you with a board-certified medical practitioner who can diagnose and treat your symptoms. With Sickday, you can get medical attention from the comfort of your own home, avoiding the hassle and expense of a trip to the emergency room. This is possible because Sickday offers medical house calls, so that you can get the care you need, without having to travel. With Sickday, you can rest assured that you’re in good hands.

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