According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 76 million cases of “food poisoning” in the U.S. each year-including 5,000 fatal cases. Food-borne illness is caused when harmful microorganisms, mostly bacteria, but sometimes viruses, parasites, molds, or toxins, get into our bodies by means of the food or liquids we consume.
For most people, the symptoms of food poisoning, while definitely unpleasant, are short-term and not life-threatening. But as we grow older, we are more likely to experience hospitalization, permanent health problems, and even death. The greater risk is due to:
• decreased immune system efficiency, so we can’t fight off bacteria as effectively as when we were younger;
• reduced amount of stomach acid, which allows more bacteria to survive in the digestive tract;
• loss of vision and sense of taste, so we become less likely to notice if food is spoiled.
Some Foods Do Not Belong on the Senior Menu
The USDA recommends that seniors and persons with conditions that weaken the immune system avoid certain foods:
• Any dishes with raw or undercooked meat or seafood (sushi, steak tartare, raw oysters, hamburgers cooked rare).
• Unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk.
• Foods with raw or undercooked eggs (such as Caesar salad, unbaked cookie dough, homemade mayonnaise, eggnog).
• Raw sprouts (alfalfa, bean, etc.)
• Fresh-squeezed, unpasteurized fruit juices
Your healthcare provider can give you more information about the foods that are safe for you or your loved one.
More Steps to Avoid Food-borne Illness
Even “safe” foods require safe handling. When purchasing and preparing food, take these sensible precautions:
• At the grocery store, inspect meat packages for tears, eggs for cracked shells, all products for expired “sell-by” dates.
• Wash hands before preparing food.
• Use only acrylic or plastic cutting boards, and clean thoroughly with hot water and soap after use-or better yet, in the dishwasher. Avoid cross-contamination: never allow juices from uncooked meat to come into contact with uncooked foods.
• Cook meats to the recommended temperature (for example, beef to at least 160°, poultry to at least 180°, fish to at least 140°).
• Rinse fresh produce (but don’t use soap).
• Purchased pasteurized juices only (check for a warning label if you’re not sure).
• Refrigerate or freeze leftovers as soon as possible. Consume leftover prepared foods within 3 to 5 days. And be sure your refrigerator temperature is set at 40° or lower.
• Never defrost food at room temperature. Instead, thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave using the “defrost” setting.
• If you bring home restaurant food in a “doggie bag,” only consume it if you can refrigerate it promptly (within two hours, less in warm weather).
Turn Fear into Action
Fresh meats and produce contain so many of the vitamins and other nutrients that are vital for healthy aging! So don’t avoid these foods. Instead, take basic precautions that make it unlikely that you will meet up with any harmful organisms in foods that can make for a miserable—even life-threatening—few days. Safe food handling practices are the key to ensuring that the food you eat is safe and healthy.
At Senior Helpers, our trained Caregivers can help with your aging loved one’s meal preparation to help keep them safe from foodbourne illness.
About Senior Helpers:
Senior Helpers provides many in-home, caregiving services for the elderly in Mt. Holly, Medford, Moorestown, Berlin, Atco, Columbus, Cinnaminson, Lumberton, Williamstown and surrounding areas. We offer extensive in-home health care services for seniors who embrace their independence and the personal dignity that goes with it. Our in-home health care services are provided by bonded and insured caregivers all of whom pass a national background check.
If a senior family member needs in-home care services in Burlington County, Camden County or Atlantic County, we are an excellent choice with exemplary references. In-home care is the compassionate choice for your elderly loved ones’ continued independent living. We promise we will do our best to make it a positive experience for them and you. For more information, please visit: http://seniorhelpers.com/location/3407.
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