Precautions to consider

Older adults need to be aware of high risk foods for food borne illness.

As we age foodborne illness is harder to resist in our system. We may even be healthy but natural aging progression can compromise our resistance to microorganisms. Along with aging generally there are other issues that we need medication for and some medications can also reduce resistance to microorganisms. As we age our intestinal tract slows and can hold food longer. So what can we do to strengthen our resistance or prevent foodborne illness from sitting at the table with us?

Changes in our immune system could mean that we need to avoid certain high-risk foods. We may have been able to eat these foods often throughout our lives but we have to remember our internal systems can change as we age. An example of this change could be enjoying spicy foods in the past, but they now upset our stomach. Our immune system also weakens as we age, we should give the same consideration to foods that can become risky to eat because potential food borne illness may be lurking in them.

Here are a few high risk foods to avoid:

  • Raw or undercooked meat or poultry
  • Seafood
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Sprouts
  • Unwashed vegetables and fruits
  • Hot dogs and deli meats
  • Pate’s
  • Unpasteurized products

Not only is it important to remember these things when you are eating out but also while you are at home. Michigan State University Extension encourages you to apply four basic steps when you are working with food:

  1. Clean: Wash your hands often, wash any utensils or surfaces while preparing or serving food.
  2. Separate: Raw or ready to eat foods while purchasing transporting or preparing.
  3. Cook- All foods to the correct temperature to assure proper doneness to kill any bacteria that may be present.
  4. Chill: Cooling food as quickly as possible and storing it properly is just as important as cooking it to the proper temperature.

Keeping hot foods hot (135 degrees Fahrenheit or above) and keeping cold foods cold (41 degrees F or below) is a good way to remember that your keeping your food safe and out of the temperature danger zone. This all sounds fairly basic but if there is a missed step or an area of neglect it could jeopardize someone’s health.

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