Unfortunately, people over 65 years old possess a higher risk of hospitalization and death after getting food poisoning. This is especially true for seniors living in nursing homes, as they are ten times more likely to die from bacterial gastroenteritis (a preventable disease) that the rest of Americans.
Why? The answer is simple: As we age, our important organs and body systems suffer irreversible changes due to various reasons. For example, chronic conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis) and excessive medication weaken your immune system, and your body’s defenses can’t fight invaders as they did when you were a teenager.
In addition, after decades of taking different medications for several different ailments, your liver and kidneys lose their edge, and they simply can’t cleanse your body and eliminate all foreign bacteria and toxins… and these harmful pathogens and substances start invading your body without any trouble.
What You Can Do
As a senior, you are highly susceptible to foodborne illness, and that’s why you need to follow proper food safety guidelines when you’re storing, handling, and cooking foods. Otherwise, you can end up in the emergency room.
First, you’ll need to properly store your food. For raw meat (including beef, pork, poultry, and seafood), your best option is to put it in your freezer inside separate containers. Raw meat juices carry thousands of disease-causing pathogens, so you can never let these juices touch your other foods. On the other hand, the temperature of your fridge must be below 40 °F, so you can keep your food outside the “danger zone” where bacteria start growing alarmingly fast (the United States’ Food Safety and Inspection Service defined the “danger zone” as approximately 40 to 140 °F).
Second, whenever you’re cooking any kind of meat, you need to use different “equipment” for raw and cooked foods. This means different knives, plates, cutting boards, and other utensils you normally use. This is because just a small drop of raw meat juice can easily contaminate other cooked, ready-to-eat foods… and this can send you to the hospital. Also, remember to cook your meat until it reaches a safe internal temperature.
Third, remember to always wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food. Thoroughly wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds… because this’ll help you remove dirt, bacteria, and other microorganisms living in your hands. If you don’t have access to water and soap, then you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The last rule you need to keep in mind is that foods left in the “danger zone” for two hours will start growing bacteria. Even if you reheat these foods, you can’t remove the toxins produced by E. Coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and other disease-causing pathogens.
If you’re an older adult, then now you know what to do to shield yourself against foodborne illness. On the other hand, if you’re a restaurant manager, and your restaurant’s customers are seniors, then you need to be extra-careful with the food you’re serving (otherwise, we’ll be talking about a foodborne illness outbreak in your restaurant). So, if you’re looking to learn the inside secrets to serving 100% safe food, then you’ve got to take one of Ken Kuscher’s approved programs on food safety for restaurant managers. Ken Kuscher is one of the leading authorities in food safety training and certification in Florida, with over 35 years of practical and teaching experience.