Most people have some knowledge about simple food safety practices; however, adults aged 60 and over may not realize they are more susceptible to developing complications relating to foodborne illness.
As we age, it becomes harder for our immune system to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses. Older adults produce less of the stomach acid that kills harmful bacteria, which makes it easier for them to get sick. Sensory loss (sight, smell and taste) and chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease also increase the risk of complications for people in this age group.
While most people who become ill from eating contaminated food recover completely, serious long-term health problems such as kidney failure and anemia are more common in older adults.
This is why it is so important for adults aged 60 and over, and those who prepare food for older adults, to be smart when it comes to food safety.
Health Canada’s guide Safe Food Handling for Adults Aged 60 and Over offers these tips:
• Avoid high-risk foods such as raw seafood, non-dried deli meats and unpasteurized products. A list of foods to avoid and safer alternatives is available at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/foodsafety
• Clean your hands after handling raw meat, using the bathroom, petting animals or changing diapers. Wash all kitchen surfaces, cutting boards and reusable grocery bags frequently with warm soapy water.
• Prevent cross-contamination by separating raw meat, poultry and fish from ready-to-eat foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags and at home in the refrigerator.
• Cook meat, poultry and fish to a safe internal temperature. Get into the habit of using a digital food thermometer to check.
• Chill leftovers within two hours to stop bacteria in the food from multiplying to unsafe levels.
• Don’t try to judge the safety of food by its smell or taste. If in doubt, throw it out!
Adults aged 60 and over are one of four groups identified by Health Canada as being at greater risk for foodborne illness. The other three groups are children aged five and under, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system.
More information to help older adults reduce their risk of foodborne illness is available on the website. You can also download or order a copy of Safe Food Handling for Adults Aged 60 and Over from the website, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-O-Canada.
– March is Nutrition Month in Canada. The preceding article was supplied by Health Canada