By eating safely, you are ensuring the foods you eat have been properly
handled, prepared, and stored. Eating safely can also include knowing
when to avoid eating certain foods, whether that means reading expiration
dates or throwing out things that shouldn’t be saved as leftovers.
Some older adults who are used to cooking for themselves over the years
may not realize that they now face new challenges as they age. In other
cases, elderly individuals may find themselves alone and now responsible
for their own meals, making cooking equally challenging. Anyone who is
handling or cooking their own food should be informed on how to ensure
this food is kept safe and illnesses are avoided.
How can you make sure you or your loved one is eating safely? LifeCare
has provided some practical tips and information you can follow below.
The Danger of Foodborne Illness
According to statistics, around 48 million people across the U.S. suffer
from foodborne illness every year, thousands more are hospitalized, and
an average of 3,000 die. The bacteria, parasites, and viruses that can
contaminate our food can be dangerous, especially as we age. Why? As we
age, our bodies no longer produce as much stomach acid, which means it
is harder for us to eliminate that harmful bacteria that can be hiding
within our own food. Our sense of taste and smell can also change as we
get older, making it more challenging to recognize when food has spoiled.
Four Easy Steps to Safe Eating
While most don’t think of eating as a potentially dangerous activity,
it could be very harmful if not handled correctly. That is why it is so
important that aging individuals have the proper support, assistance,
or steps to follow when preparing their meals.
The four steps that should be following when making food:
Clean – Make sure you wash your hands, the surface you are using for prep,
and any food or items that should be washed, such as knives and produce.
Bacteria can easily spread throughout your kitchen, so clean up before
you start and after you’re done.
Separate – Never allow foods to cross-contaminate, especially when cooking
raw meat such as chicken or seafood. Keeping separate prep areas and tools,
such as cutting boards, is advised.
Cook – Always cook to safe temperatures. Use a food thermometer if you
have trouble gauging the correct and safe temperature for certain foods.
You can find out more about
proper cooking temperatures here.
Chill – Refrigerate any leftovers or ingredient promptly so that they
can be consumed or used again. Correct storage of food can ensure a safe
meal. Your refrigerator should be at a constant temperature of 40 degrees
Fahrenheit and your freezer should be below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Discard
any food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
By following all of these steps, you can help yourself or your elderly
loved one eat safely. It is also important to pay attention to product
dates—you should make sure you understand the difference between
“sell-by,” “best if used by,” and “use-by”
labels, as they can all indicate a different timeline for eating a product.
Check back in with LifeCare for more tips on smart eating. We are committed
to helping individuals embrace healthy aging.