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Taking a Bite of Food Safety for Seniors

There are many safety issues that arise as people age, and some of them might not be ones you’re necessarily aware of until it’s too late. Health is always at the forefront of our minds, of course, but one of the biggest health risks is actually right in the kitchen.

Chew on This

It’s always wise to think about food safety and be aware of things like expiration dates and the possibility that food has spoiled, but there are age-related factors that make food even more of a potential hazard. Age causes the weakening of the immune system, which makes it more difficult for seniors to fight illness. Stomach acid production also decreases, and the bacteria that might be present in food aren’t effectively being killed off when they’re eaten. Adding to the risk are chronic diseases including diabetes, cancer, and kidney disorders that make seniors even more disposed to contracting a food-borne illness.

It can take as little as 20 minutes or even as long as six weeks for symptoms to arise, so it can be difficult to determine what might be the exact source of dangerous bacteria.  Some contaminated foods don’t have the telltale signs of an odd smell or taste that would make them easily spotted as hotbeds of bacteria. For that reason, it can be easy to encounter foods that are unsafe until symptoms present themselves, and those symptoms can be quite severe. Generally, they include nausea, fever, vomiting, headaches, body aches, and diarrhea.

Kitchen Rules

Fortunately, there are simple precautionary measures that can significantly reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap both before and after handling foods. It’s also wise to soap up after using the bathroom, coughing, sneezing, and touching surfaces in public places.
  • Disinfect hard surfaces including countertops, tables, cutting boards, and utensils. Use disposable paper towels; and frequently replace towels, dishcloths, and sponges with clean ones.
  • Wash produce in water before eating or preparing them.
  • Guard against cross-contamination by keeping raw and cooked foods separate. During preparation, wash hands between handling each; and use clean cutting boards, dishes, pans, and cooking tools.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure that foods have reached the proper internal temperature.
  • Freeze or refrigerate leftover foods promptly and reheat them properly.
  • Maintain recommended temperatures of freezers and refrigerators.
  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator.
  • Dispose of any foods that have not been safely stored at the proper temperature for more than two hours.
  • Throw away any foods that seem questionable, as it is better to avoid the potential risks.

Danger Zones

Risky foods include:

  • Hot dogs and lunchmeat (unless they have been heated to recommended temperatures)
  • Raw fish
  • Raw meats
  • Raw or undercooked eggs
  • Raw or unpasteurized dairy products
  • Raw or unpasteurized juices
  • Raw poultry
  • Raw sprouts

Make your kitchen a healthy environment! Call the friendly team of senior healthcare experts at Watermark of Gulf Breeze Assisted Living & Memory Care to learn more about the services we offer today!