Few things can make a person miserable more quickly than food poisoning. Over 75 million Americans suffer from food poisoning each year, but the vast majority of these cases are preventable if proper food handling procedures are followed. Proper food safety is important for everyone, but it is especially vital for seniors. As we age, our immune systems become less effective. Because of this, illnesses can be more severe in seniors. Food poisoning can lead to dehydration, hospitalization or even death in extreme cases. Fortunately, it is easy to prevent most cases of food poisoning when you keep the following tips in mind during meal preparation.
Food Safety Guidelines
First, always wash your hands before preparing or eating food. According to the FDA, you should wash your hands under running water for at least 20 seconds before you handle food. A good way to estimate 20 seconds is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing your hands. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before consumption, but raw meats and chicken should not be washed to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.
It is important to follow proper food hygiene practices even when you are preparing meals or snacks. If you are using frozen meat, thaw it in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Place the frozen meat on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator, and be sure that there is a plate or bowl underneath it to collect any drippings. If you are in a hurry, you can also safely thaw food in the microwave for immediate consumption.
Cook your meat to recommended internal temperatures to kill bacteria, and refrigerate leftovers immediately. If you have not consumed the leftovers after three or four days in the refrigerator, throw them away. When you are purchasing food at the grocery store, pay close attention to sell-by and expiration dates. Do not consume food or drinks after they have expired.
Avoid the following foods to reduce the risk of food poisoning:
- Raw or rare meats, chicken and fish
- Unpasteurized dairy products, such as cheese or milk
- Undercooked or raw eggs
- Unpasteurized vegetable or fruit juices
- Deli salads
- Raw sprouts
If you or someone you love needs assistance with cooking, errands or other household tasks, our caregiving service is here to help. We also provide a wide range of medical services. Please contact us today to learn more about how we help seniors live safely and comfortably in their own homes.