Holidaymakers warned over food poisoning in Cape Verde

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  • Experts are seeing a growing number of sickness complaints about Cape Verde
  • One hotel alone on the island of Sal had 109 separate complaints about sickness 
  • Food scientists say that all of the complaints come down to lack of food hygiene 

Jennifer Newton for MailOnline

It has emerged as one of the fastest-growing destinations for Brits seeking winter sun.

But food sickness experts are warning holidaymakers heading to Cape Verde they need to be vigilant after a steady stream of illness complaints.

According to data from Google Trends and compiled in the ‘Global Travel Search Index’, interest in Cape Verde has surged 3,000 per cent since 2004.

Holiday sickness experts have seen an increase in the number of complaints from holidaymakers who have visited Cape Verde (file image)

Holiday sickness experts have seen an increase in the number of complaints from holidaymakers who have visited Cape Verde (file image)

Holiday sickness experts have seen an increase in the number of complaints from holidaymakers who have visited Cape Verde (file image)

But Richard Conroy, food scientist and founder of vacation illness firm Sick Holiday, says Brits need to be wary after it handled hundreds of cases over the past five years.

And he fears the situation could get much worse before it gets better.

He explained: ‘In the last five years we’ve handled 606 cases from Cape Verde.

‘When you consider that we handle around 1,000 cases per summer from places like Spain, that number for Cape Verde might sound insignificant.

‘But you have to remember that Cape Verde is still not established on the UK tourism map, despite the recent upsurge in popularity.

‘It gets a relatively small number of Brit tourists compared to destinations like Mallorca and the Dominican Republic, so the number of cases we’re seeing are actually really high.

‘One hotel alone, on the island of Sal, has accounted for 109 cases.

Cape Verde is just a six hour flight away from Britain, with tour operators such as TUI, Thomas Cook and Portugal's national airline TAP all offering direct flights

Cape Verde is just a six hour flight away from Britain, with tour operators such as TUI, Thomas Cook and Portugal's national airline TAP all offering direct flights

Cape Verde is just a six hour flight away from Britain, with tour operators such as TUI, Thomas Cook and Portugal’s national airline TAP all offering direct flights

‘And it’s all down to a basic lack of food hygiene in these emerging resorts, combined with a lack of care from tour operators.

‘There’s no doubt about it – Cape Verde is a stunning location with year-round sun and with beaches on a par with Thailand and the Maldives

ABTA’S ‘STOP SICKNESS SCAMS’ CAMPAIGN 

Abta’s Stop Sickness Scams campaign is supported by destination governments, tourist boards and Abta members, including Thomas Cook, TUI and Jet2holidays.

As part of the campaign Abta is reminding people that if they believe they have experienced food poisoning as a result of eating in their hotel, to contact their hotel or tour operator immediately in resort.

It also advises that anyone who is cold-called and encouraged to make a fake or exaggerated claim should report the company to the Claims Management Regulator

‘But the fact remains that basic food hygiene appears to be an issue in some resorts and we’d urge visitors to be vigilant about what they consume while there.

‘Tour operators also need to have a duty of care to protect their customers.’

According to the most recent stats, Cape Verde welcomed around 644,000 tourists in 2016 – a 13.6 per cent increase on previous years.

The destination is just a six-hour flight away from Britain, with tour operators such as TUI, Thomas Cook and Portugal’s national airline TAP all offering direct flights from UK airports to the islands of Sal and Boa Vista.

It’s also becoming increasingly popular with celebrities, with Geordie Shore’s Vicky Pattison, ex-Towie pin-up Amy Childs and realty TV star Frankie Essex all making visits in the past two months.

The archipelago is popular with German, Portuguese and French visitors keen on trekking, whale watching, diving and relaxing on one of its many sun-kissed beaches.

Yet its Brits who make up the bulk of the tourists, accounting for 126,685 tourists in 2015, according to Cape Verde’s National Statistics Institute.

HOW TO AVOID PICKING UP SICKNESS BUGS ON HOLIDAY

DON’T spend too long at waterparks:

Mr Conroy explained: ‘Waterparks are a hotel solicitor’s nightmare – because they’re very often at the centre of nasty waterborne outbreak, particularly for a parasitic infection called Cryptosporidium. If you do take a dip, keep your mouth closed and don’t swallow water.’ 

Avoid show cooking:

He added: ‘What you’ll commonly see on all-inclusive trips is cookery turned into spectacle, where a chef will perform a fiery show while creating his dishes. But we’ve dealt with several cases where show cooking has led to illness. The chefs are under pressure to cook fast, and often standards can slip. Using the same tongs to pick up raw and cooked meats can lead to cross contamination and while the meat might look seared on the outside, is it cooked and up to temperature on the inside? Remember, the core temperature of chicken needs to be 70ºc. If it’s not, and it’s then set aside, after two hours it could be home to 30 billion bacteria.’ 

DO avoid any meat that’s been minced:

Mr Conroy said: ‘Think of a beef steak; If any harmful bacteria has started to grow on the outside of the meat, it is quickly rendered harmless when cooked as nothing bad has formed on the inside. But if you mince that beef, any bacteria on the outside is suddenly spread throughout the entire product.’ 

DON’T assume the locally caught seafood will be good for you:

‘There are several resorts in the world where the surrounding seas are actually full of extremely harmful fish. In October last year, a British woman sadly passed away on her honeymoon in Mexico. She’d contracted something called, ‘Ciguatera food poisoning’ having eaten a grouper fish which contained high levels of mercury, which led to her organs shutting down’

DON’T assume water from cooled dispensers is safe:

‘You often seen office-style water coolers in the lobbies of all-inclusive hotels. And many UK visitors might assume the water comes from large, safe bottles. But you’d be wrong. We’ve seen for ourselves how those coolers are sometimes filled with water from a garden hose!’

DO try to eat like a local:

‘There’s a reason that local delicacies and tastes exist, and quite often it’s because they’re extremely safe to eat. It’s the food that’s reproduced for our tastes that often ends up being unsafe. Take the Greek favourite baklava, a sweet dessert pastry. The sugar content is so high that bacteria simply can’t grow on it. It’s pretty much safe, whatever the circumstances, even if you’d just wafted the flies off it. It’s a similar story with chicken that’s been drenched in lemon juice and yoghurt. The acid in those marinades is extremely powerful and drastically helps to neutralise bacteria.’

DON’T indulge in exotic meats:

‘We’ve seen instances where things like ostrich steak has been cooked rare, in keeping with how you’d cook a beef steak. But ostrich meat, while red, is still poultry and we’d recommend it’s cooked through. Meanwhile crocodile steaks, served in places like Cuba and the Dominican Republic, have been found to carry Tapeworm cysts…’

DON’T forget the ‘Goldilocks Principle’:

‘Don’t be afraid to stick your finger in your own meal to check it’s the right temperature. If it’s supposed to be cold, it should feel like a glass of water from the fridge. If it’s supposed to be hot, it should feel hot enough for you not to want to leave your finger in it; ‘Ouch effect’ or ‘uncomfortably hot’ are the key phrases. If your dish arrives and it’s neither of those two things – it’s a lovely lukewarm place where your finger feels ‘just right’ – then poor Goldilocks could end up with Salmonella.’

 

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