Food Safety for Older Adults

By Jennifer Carland, RD, CDN

As we age, our organs and body systems go through changes that can increase the risk of foodborne illness. Therefore, food safety is very important for adults over the age of 60.

What is Foodborne Illness?
Foodborne illness, often called food poisoning, is any illness that is caused by the food you eat. Safe food handling can help reduce your risk of getting sick from food.

Signs of Foodborne Illness:
• Upset stomach
• Diarrhea
• Fever
• Vomiting
• Abdominal cramps
• Dehydration

If you experience the symptoms of foodborne illness, call your doctor or health care provider.

Risk factors include:
• Those with chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
• Declining function of the gastrointestinal tract that allows food to stay in the system longer, thus, allowing bacteria to grow.
• Declining function of the liver and kidneys, which decreases the body’s ability to clear bacteria and toxins properly.
• Decreased stomach acid production that may lead to increased bacteria growth.

Food Safety for Home Delivered Meals
• Hot or cold ready-prepared meals are perishable.
• Eat hot foods right away or refrigerate. You can reheat them when you are ready to eat.
• Leaving food out too long at room temperature can cause bacteria to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness. Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40°F and 140° F. Perishable foods left at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded.
• Foods delivered cold should be eaten within two hours, or else refrigerated or frozen for eating at another time.

Reheating
• Reheat food to 165°F using a food thermometer.

Food Storage
This chart is a guideline for how long different foods may be stored in the refrigerator or freezer before needing to be discarded.

It’s important to understand the risks of foodborne illness, especially in older adults. Follow the guidelines above to keep food safe. Remember, if in doubt, throw it out!