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Food-safety tips

Food safety is important for people of all ages, but it’s especially true for older people. Many older adults have weakened immune systems, putting them at increased risk of foodborne illness. Plus, stomach acid—which helps reduce the amount of bacteria in our intestinal tracts—decreases with age. And certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease, may make you more susceptible to getting a foodborne illness, often called food poisoning. All this makes it harder for your body to recognize and eliminate dangerous bacteria in foods—especially raw items.

What to avoid

To prevent contracting a foodborne illness, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that older adults avoid:

  • raw fish (sushi or ceviche) and shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels, scallops)
  • raw meat or poultry
  • raw or unpasteurized cheese, or soft cheese (feta, Brie, blue)
  • raw or unpasteurized milk
  • raw sprouts (alfalfa, bean)
  • raw or lightly cooked eggs or egg products (such as cookie dough, cake batter, certain sauces and salad dressings and drinks such as eggnog)
  • unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juice (such as cider)

Do you have a foodborne illness?

Signs and symptoms of foodborne illness include an upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps and dehydration. Foodborne bacteria can take hours to days to cause symptoms; it depends on various factors, including the type of organism and how many of them were swallowed. Call your physician if you experience any of the above symptoms.

If you’re unsure about the safety of a food, don’t eat it.