Food Safety

 Local Food Choices During Deployment

Last Updated: July 31, 2018
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​This page contains information about health risks that may result from eating local foods during deployment. Local foods are those eaten on the economy or from sources not approved by U.S. military preventive medicine and veterinary personnel. They are found off-Forward Operating Base (FOB) and also on-FOB in some locally owned and operated food establishments. Do not assume local foods eaten on-FOB are from approved sources.

There are numerous threats to the health and safety of U.S. military members during deployment, particularly in areas with significant disease threats and minimal public health infrastructure. Prevention of illness is key to ensuring military operational readiness. Gastrointestinal illness, such as diarrhea, commonly afflicts deployed U.S. military personnel and can adversely affect operational readiness1,2,3,4. Consumption of local, unapproved food sources is a risk behavior for contracting diarrheal illness4.


At times, U.S. forces may need to eat local foods with community leaders and
residents. Eating local allows for better understanding and exchange of customs between U.S. forces and local communities. The practice can create bonding and improve working relationships, trust and morale. 

Although eatling local may be good for building relationships, it does carry some
risk. Those who are not accustomed to local foods may be more likely to get foodborne illnesses. These illnesses may be relatively short in duration (hours or days) or severe, long-term or chronic, and even life-threatening. Lost duty days, decreased performance and prolonged illness are possible.

Common Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fever

Seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.

Decrease the Risk

Educated choices regarding the types of local food you eat can help to reduce your risk of foodborne illness. The chart below identifies common local foods based on the level of risk they pose for foodborne illness. This information does not replace the guidance or policies put in place by command leadership. Always seek command guidance before eating from unapproved sources.

Eat Lower Risk Foods with Caution Avoid Higher Risk Foods
​Breads ​Milk and other dairy products (cheese, ice cream, and butter)
​Fully cooked vegetables, beans and rice that are kept and served hot​Partially cooked or raw meats or fish
​Boiled or well done meats (lamb, beef, poultry, and fish) that are eaten within 2 hours after cooking

​Raw leafy vegetables

​Hard-skin fruits and vegetables that you peel yourself (bananas, oranges, limes)​Left-overs, take-home or doggie bags
​Hot tea​Opened/unsealed beverage containers
​Bottled water or canned carbonated drinks that you open yourself​Ice, iced drinks, frozen desserts and juices
​Locally canned or packaged products

Making Safer Local Food Choices During Deployment briefing

Visit the APHC HIP eCatalog to download and order food safety products for your Service members: Link


1 Riddle MS, Tribble DR, Putnam SD, Mostafa M, Brown TR, Letizia A, Armstrong AW, & Sanders JW. 2008. Past trends and current status of self-reported incidence and impact of disease and nonbattle injury in military operations in Southwest Asia and the Middle East. American Journal of Public Health, 98(12), 2199-2206.

2 Sanders JW, Putnam SD, Frankart C, Frenck RW, Monteville MR, Riddle MS, Rockabrand DM, Sharp TW, & Tribble DR. 2005. Impact of illness and non-combat injury during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 73(4), 713-719.

3 Sanders JW, Punam SD, Riddle MS, Tribble DR, Jobanputra NK, Jones JJ, Scott DA & Frenck RW. 2004. The epidemiology of self-reported diarrhea in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease, 50, 89-93.

4 Putnam SD, Sanders JW, Frenck RW, Monteville M, Riddle MS, Rockabrand DM, Sharp TW, Frankart C, & Tribble, DR. 2006. Self-reported description of diarrhea among military populations in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Journal of Travel Medicine, 13(2), 92-99.

5 World Health Organization. 2007. Fact Sheet: Food safety and foodborne illness. Retrieved online 20 April 2011 at External Link