10 Food Safety Tips for Seniors’ (and Family Caregivers’) Health

We worry about the safety of our food and want to do everything we can to store and prepare our food to keep our families safe.

Getting sick from the food we eat is never fun and can be dangerous for our senior loved ones.

As our seniors age, they become more vulnerable to bacteria and viruses – especially in their food.

One reason our elders are more susceptible is that their immune systems become weakened, making it more difficult to fight illnesses. In addition, with age comes a decreased production of stomach acid, which helps our bodies destroy the bacteria we eat.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and kidney disease can make our senior loved ones even more prone to contracting food related illness.

Foodborne Illness

We can help keep these food related illnesses from attacking our seniors by taking precautions every day.

Food poisoning or foodborne illness can strike anytime, but proper food handling will reduce risks.

Unfortunately, foods that are contaminated usually do not smell or taste differently and you can’t see the bacteria.

Seniors can be affected by bacteria in foods as soon as 20 minutes or as long as 6 weeks after eating something contaminated. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to identify the food culprit.

Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fever, body aches, diarrhea, and headache, often mimicking other illnesses. Check with their doctor if you think your senior has been afflicted.

To reduce the risk of foodborne illness, you and your senior loved ones should practice safe food handling procedures.

10 Tips for Safe Food Handling for Seniors (and all of us)

  1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently, especially before and after handling foods, coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom or when you touch a nonfood surface.
  2. Clean surfaces, including counters, tables, cutting boards and utensils and sanitize periodically.  Use clean towels and cloths replacing soiled ones frequently or use paper which can be discarded when soiled.
  3. Clean all produce in water and use a brush for visible dirt.
  4. Keep raw and cooked foods separate, using clean cutting boards, utensils, dishes, pans and washing hands between each to prevent cross contamination.
  5. Use a food thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked thoroughly, to the proper internal temperature. Be sure foods cooked in a microwave don’t have cold spots that may contain bacteria.
  6. Store leftovers promptly and reheat thoroughly.
  7. Keep your refrigerator and freezer set at the proper temperatures and check them with an internal thermometer to maintain safe temperatures.
  8. Thaw your foods safely in the refrigerator-never on the counter.
  9. Throw away any food not stored at the proper temperature for more than 2 hours.
  10. If in doubt, throw it out!

Foods Seniors Should Approach with Caution or Avoid

  • Raw fish
  • Hot dogs and luncheon meat unless heated to safe temperature
  • Raw or unpasteurized milk or fruit/vegetable juice (most have warning labels)
  • Refrigerated pates or smoked fish (canned or shelf stable products are safe)
  • Raw or lightly cooked eggs
  • Raw meat or poultry
  • Raw sprouts

You can learn more about food safety from the Food and Drug Administration using their toll free hotline 1-888-SAFEFOOD or online.

Your senior’s health is worth an ounce (or thousand) of prevention.

2 thoughts on “10 Food Safety Tips for Seniors’ (and Family Caregivers’) Health”

  1. I was surprised to read hot dogs were unsafe. However, this is not the first time I read this. It was not long ago that I read they contained a bacteria that needs to be heated in order to kill. It seems that both seniors and pregnant women are at risk for the bacteria. I believe it was listeria(sp?)

    Thank you for the tips.

    • Thanks for stopping by and especially for your comment. While hotdogs, like many other foods, can carry bacteria, they also present a choking risk greater than many other foods. Bite sized pieces of hotdog seem to be the right size to cause choking in many seniors, especially those with swallowing limitations.

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