Food Safety Guidelines for Seniors

Although food poisoning can affect anyone, it’s important to adopt extra diligent food safety practices if you fall into a high risk category.
April 4, 2012
By Michael Stewart

Although food poisoning due to infection by listeria, salmonella, and other commonly identified organism strains can affect anyone, it’s important to adopt extra diligent food safety practices if you fall into a high risk category. People at elevated risk for developing serious food borne illnesses are those whose immune systems aren’t as strong. These include people with chronic illnesses or disorders of the immune system. Young children under 6 and pregnant women are also included.

Senior citizens are among those who need to be extra careful as well. The older we get, the more sensitive our digestive systems tend to become. Not only do senior citizens produce less stomach acid than younger people, but their stomach linings become irritated more easily. This can make it easier for bacteria to make it past your stomach and into your lower digestive tract, which can in turn add up to food poisoning.

Symptoms of Food Poisoning in Seniors

Although most people begin to experience symptoms of food poisoning shortly after ingesting the offending substance, it can sometimes take a few days or even weeks for them to surface depending on the bacterium involved. Treatment should be sought if you experience the following:

  • Diarrhoea or bloody stool
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Severe headache or exhaustion

Preventing Food Poisoning

In order to lower your chances of contracting food poisoning, make sure that all perishable foods are refrigerated immediately within two hours. Frozen foods should be thawed thoroughly before cooking. They should also be thawed in the refrigerator only, as opposed to the kitchen counter.

Raw and ready-to-eat foods should always be kept separate from one another in order to avoid cross-contamination. Raw meat should be handled only on non-porous cutting boards and hands should be thoroughly washed both before and after handling food.