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Baby Boomers and Food Safety

Editor’s note: Steering clear of food poisoning is crucial, and older people face special risks from this condition. The experts from FoodSafety, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offer these tips for dealing with a common and potentially deadly issue.

Adults 65 and older are at a higher risk for hospitalization and death from foodborne illness.  For example, older adults residing in nursing homes are ten times more likely to die from bacterial gastroenteritis than the general population.  Statistics show that food safety is particularly important for adults 65 and older.

This increased risk of foodborne illness is because our organs and body systems go through changes as we age. These changes include:

The gastrointestinal tract holds on to food for a longer period of time, allowing bacteria to grow.

The liver and kidneys may not properly rid our bodies of foreign bacteria and toxins.

The stomach may not produce enough acid.  The acidity helps to reduce the number of bacteria in our intestinal tract.  Without proper amounts of acid, there is an increased risk of bacterial growth.

Underlying chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, may also increase a person’s risk of foodborne illness.

Older adults should always follow the four steps:

Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often

Separate: Separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods

Cook: Cook food to the right temperatures

Chill: Prompty chill raw meat and poultry , and refrigerate cooked leftovers within within 2 hours

Download our FoodKeeper application to make sure you are storing food and beverages properly, and using them within recommended storage guidelines. More information is contained in Seniors Need Wisdom on Food Safety.

This article first appeared on For additional information, visit the agency’s website.


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