OTTAWA - Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are reminding Canadians of the importance of food safety for older adults.
As you age, it becomes harder for your immune system to fight off harmful bacteria. This means that older adults can come down with a serious illness if they eat contaminated food. For this reason, it is very important to choose, handle and cook food properly before eating. It is very important for older adults or their caregivers to follow food safety steps to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million cases of foodborne illnesses in Canada every year. Many of these illnesses could be prevented by following proper food handling and preparation techniques.
To minimize the risks of foodborne illness, older adults or caregivers of older adults should follow these steps when handling and preparing food.
- At the grocery store, separate raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood from other grocery items. Place these raw foods in separate plastic bags that you can get in the produce or meat sections.
- In your home refrigerator, store raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood on the bottom shelf to prevent any juices from the meat dripping down onto other foods.
- Wash all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touch or hold raw meat, poultry or seafood with warm soapy water before using them again for foods that you do not cook before eating, like fresh fruit and raw vegetables or ready-to-eat foods. You may also use the following solution to help you sanitize your surfaces and utensils:
- Combine 5 mL (1 tsp) of bleach with 750 mL (3 cups) of water in a labelled spray bottle.
- Spray the bleach solution on the surface/utensil and let stand briefly.
- Rinse with lots of clean water and air dry (or use clean towels)
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meats, poultry or seafood and after using the bathroom, touching pets or changing diapers.
- Always wash raw fruits and vegetables gently in cool, running water. You can also use a vegetable brush to scrub hard skin produce such as carrots, potatoes, melons and squashes. Remember, you can't always tell whether foods carry surface bacteria by the way they look, smell or taste.
- After using reusable bags for grocery shopping, make sure that you clean them after use, especially if they contained raw meat, poultry or seafood. It is a good practice to have grocery bags specifically for raw meats, poultry, fish and seafood; make sure they are clearly labeled as such.
- Make sure you store your raw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator at 4°C (40°F) and below.
- After grocery shopping, make sure your raw meat, poultry and seafood are refrigerated as soon as possible; this is especially important on hot days.
- Put leftovers back in the refrigerator as soon as you are finished eating. Never leave food out on the counter for over two hours.
- The simple rule is: When in doubt, throw it out.
- Make sure that your food is thoroughly cooked before eating it. You can reduce your risk of foodborne illness by avoiding high-risk foods
- Remember, visual cues like colour are not a guarantee that food is safe. Don=t guess! Use a digital instant-read food thermometer to check when meat and poultry are safe to eat. Cooked foods are safe to eat when internal temperatures are:
- 71° C (160° F) for ground meat
- 74° C (165° F) for leftover food and boned and deboned poultry parts
- 85° C (185° F) for whole poultry
- Older adults should also pay close attention to what they are eating. Some foods are at a higher risk for foodborne bacteria than others.
- Make sure to cook hot dogs and deli meats until they are steaming hot before eating them
- Don't eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry and seafood
- Avoid refrigerated smoked fish or seafood
- Avoid unpasteurized juice, cider and milk
- Avoid soft and semi-soft cheeses made from raw or unpasteurized milk
- Avoid refrigerated pâtés and meat spreads.
- Avoid uncooked foods made from raw or unpasteurized eggs.
For more information on food safety tips for older adults, please visit:
Government of Canada's Food Safety Tips for Older adults
It's Your Health on Food Safety for Older Adults
Government of Canada's Food Safety website
Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education's Be Food Safe Canada Campaign
Food Safety for Older Adults Guide (PDF Version - 1608 K)
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Canadian Food Inspection Agency