Summer Food Safety Tips for Seniors
Essential summer food safety tips for seniors and their families. Learn what food items to avoid, how to safely handle and cook food, and more
The season for family vacations, picnics and fun-filled outdoors activities is here again. But with it, concerns over summer food safety for seniors also arise. Hot weather means that microorganisms found in food begin to flourish and bacteria multiplies quickly. For the elderly, this poses a significant health threat. Studies show that seniors over the age of 65 are at much higher risk of hospitalization and serious health complications due to food-borne sickness. This happens because our bodies change as we get older: the gastrointestinal system works more slowly and the stomach produces less acid, allowing bacteria to develop and grow more quickly. Even our liver and kidneys don’t work as well to eliminate bacterias and toxins.
Here are some great summer food safety tips for seniors to help you and your loved ones make the right decisions during hot weather. Follow these simple steps along with other senior safety tips, to help elderly citizens live healthy and independent lives.
Making smart food choices begins at the grocery store. While grocery shopping for yourself or an elderly loved one, make sure to grab perishable items such as dairy products, cold or pre-prepared food towards the end of your trip. Buy only pasteurized products: milk, cheese and fruit juices. Shopping for dry groceries and household products first, such as pasta, cereal, canned goods and detergent, will minimize perishable items exposure to high temperatures.
TRANSPORT FOOD SAFELY
When leaving the store, avoid putting the groceries in the trunk. Even though it might seem like the most convenient place, it is also one of the hottest places in the car. Try putting your food items in a cooler part of your car, such as near the air conditioning. While storing and traveling with food, make sure to keep it cold. An average-sized cooler with ice in it will come in handy to travel with meat, poultry and seafood to prevent bacterial growth – store all cold food at 40 °F or below.
WASH YOUR HANDS
The FDA recommends to wash hands with warm water and soap for minimum 20 seconds before and after handling food, touching your pet, changing diapers or using the restroom.
CLEAN YOUR FOOD
Clean all produce – vegetables and fruit – carefully and throughly under running water, before storing them in your refrigerator or cooler. Scrub the produce gently under a stream of water to ensure that you have removed all dirt and bacteria.
SEPARATE, DON’T CROSS CONTAMINATE
One of the most important summer food safety tips for seniors regards cross-contamination – one of the leading causes of food poisoning. Cross-contamination occurs when juices from raw foods (such as meats, poultry or seafood) or bacteria come into contact with cooked, clean food. To avoid any potential problems, always separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery cars, shopping bags or in your refrigerator and cooler. During food preparation, use separate cutting boards and cutlery for handling raw and cooked food, and wash your hands every time you handle raw food items.
REFRIGERATE PROMPTLY AND KEEP FOOD COLD
You might think that only cold food is at risk of pathogens. But in reality, hot cooked food can also develop bacteria. When purchasing prepared hot foods, try to get home as quickly as possible and consume the food within a safe period. Perishable food, like cooked or raw meats and salads, should never be left out at room temperature more than 2 hours. Don’t be afraid to toss any unrefrigerated food that exceeds the safety window. And remember: if in doubt of whether it has passed the 2 hour safety window, just throw it out!
COOK FOOD THOROUGHLY
In the summertime, everyone likes to grill and picnic outdoors. It’s important to remember that food must be cooked thoroughly, according to safe cooking temperatures. Always use a cooking thermometer to check food for doneness!