Let’s discuss nutrition concerns for the elderly care consumer. With romaine lettuce in the news for causing an outbreak of food-borne illness, this is a good time to focus on food preparation safety.
Illness caused by contaminated or spoiled food can be dangerous for anyone, but it’s of particular concern for those with weaker or compromised immune systems—and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Proper preparation of food can greatly reduce the chances that serious problems may occur. Here are some simple things care providers and food preparers can do to improve food safety.
- Gloves are not a magic shield against food contamination.
In fact, gloves can provide a false sense of security if they are used carelessly or incorrectly, because the wearer may not be able to feel that they have become soiled. Wash hands thoroughly before putting on gloves, and be mindful of handling dirty items or touching dirty surfaces with gloves on. If you touch raw meat, chicken or produce, open a door or touch the floor with a gloved hand, throw out those gloves and put on a new pair. If that’s impossible, thoroughly wash your gloved hands with soap and water. Keep your fingernails short and well-groomed to avoid punctures or contamination from dirt under the nail.
- Avoid problem foods.
Sprouts, leafy vegetables, melons, eggs in the shell, ground beef and raw poultry have all recently caused food-borne illness outbreaks in the United States. Be extra careful preparing these items for vulnerable consumers. Sprouts should be avoided entirely, as they are impossible to clean thoroughly. Food served raw, such as leafy greens and fruits should be washed thoroughly before cutting, using a vegetable wash solution or diluted dish handwashing detergent, and rinsed well. Clean rough-surfaced melons like cantaloupe with a food-safe scrub brush, and don’t serve melons with the rind still attached.The dangers presented by eggs, meat and chicken can be minimized by avoiding cross-contamination and thorough cooking. Keep other foods away from surfaces where meat and chicken have been prepared, and clean those surfaces with hot water, an effective cleanser, and a sanitizer such as bleach.To be safe, solid meat (beef, veal, lamb and pork) must reach an internal temperature of 145°F, ground meats must reach 160°F, and all poultry must reach at least 165°F. How can you tell if it has?
- Use a food thermometer.
Battery-powered or mechanical quick-read thermometers are inexpensive and take the guesswork out of keeping food safe. Use your thermometer to check that food has reached the proper temperature, and to ensure that hot food stays hot and cold food stays cold. Wash the thermometer between measurements to avoid cross-contamination.
- Speed through the “danger zone.”
When cooking or reheating food and when chilling food, minimize the time it spends at temperatures that promote bacterial growth. Use enough heat to quickly bring food above 140°F. Don’t leave hot food out on the counter to cool. Especially during hot summer months, once food has sat out at room temperature for an hour it must be discarded. Instead, rapidly chill food to 40°F or below in the refrigerator, then freeze if desired.
- Stay informed.
State and local government websites have a full range of food safety information and alerts regarding recent recalls. Check out the resources, and they’ll help you keep the ones you care for safe and well-fed!
We’ll discuss nutrition for the elderly in a future post.
Contact us today for more information.