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How Safe is Grandpa's Meal? Food Safety for Seniors

Meghana Giridhar - April 07, 2015 10:38 AM

April 7th, 2015 is being celebrated as World Health Day by WHO better known as World Health Organization. Food or water borne diseases are on the rise. It is estimated that two million people die every year from contaminated food or drinking polluted water. WHO is highlighting the challenges of food safety with this year’s theme, “From Farm to Plate, Make Food Safe”.

More than 200 diseases are caused by unsafe foods that typically contain harmful bacteria and chemicals. Food safety is an issue that has to be tackled soon.

The way food is being prepared and transported has changed over time. The supply chain including farm methods, harvesting, storage and transportation has become more complex. Unsafe food not only affects farmers but also tourism and exports affecting development. The most important concern is the increase in antimicrobial resistance that could cause global health problems. With globalization, it is crucial that everyone from the producer to consumer must be disciplined about the way food is handled.

Though anyone can fall victim to food-related illnesses, seniors are most susceptible. Immune systems are not as strong as younger sections of the population. There is a reduction in stomach acid with the progression of age as well as preexisting diseases that can increase the risk of bacterial infections.

Here are some simple measures to follow to ensure food preparation and consumption is safe:

Cleanliness:

•    Bacteria are unseen and can be lurking throughout kitchen surfaces, utensils, sponges etc.
•    Wash hands with soap and water before touching food and during preparation of meals.
•    Wash cutting boards, utensils and equipment used for cooking with regular use of kitchen sanitizers. Replace utensils when they start looking worn out.

Separation of Foods:

•    Don’t mix raw and cooked food. Storage should also be separate. Rinse raw produce only with water. Vegetables have surface dirt too so it is advised to use a vegetable brush.
•    Use different cutting boards for vegetables and meat. Wash them with hot, soapy water after use.
•    After cooking food, serve on a clean plate. Using a plate that has had raw food on it, could lead to contamination.

Watch the Heat!

•    Dangerous bacteria are killed when food is heated for a long time on high temperatures.
•    Use food thermometers to ensure food is cooked completely.
•    Poultry should be cooked at 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher temperatures, depending on preference.
•    Ground beef should be cooked to a minimum of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
•    Similarly, veal, lamb roasts and steaks need at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit of cooking.
•    Do not cook eggs partially. The yolk and white should be firm.
•    Fish should be cooked such that is easily flaked with a dork or opaque.
•    Cooked food should not be kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
•    Reheating should occur at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
•    Do not store food for too long in refrigerators or thaw food at room temperature.

Despite these precautions, illnesses can occur. To allow for added safety and reduce the risks of bacteria, there are food seniors are advised to avoid:

•    Raw shellfish or fin fish such as mussels, oysters, clams
•    Hot dogs that are not piping hot
•    Unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses such as feta, brie unless they are made with pasteurized milk
•    Raw eggs or salad dressings, cookie batter, sauces that contain egg nog.
•    Raw meat, poultry or sprouts
•    Unpasteurized, refrigerated meat spreads
•    Refrigerated smoked seafood such as salmon, trout, cod
•    Untreated fruit or vegetable juice

Here are some resources that can provide more information about food safety:

Food and Drug Administration
Food Safety and Inspection Service
FoodSafety.gov
Partnership for Food Safety Education

Food safety is everybody’s responsibility. Informed food choices and knowledge of food hazards can help with protecting yourself and your loved ones.

References:

http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2015/en/

http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/PeopleAtRisk/ucm182679.htm

Meghana Giridhar serves as Content Coordinator and is part of eCareDiary's founding team.  In her role, she oversees and edits content across all of eCareDiary's media platforms.

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