Senior Living Raw-Food Safety for Seniors

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Seniors, like everyone else, need a healthful diet to help them avoid unnecessary illnesses. An important element in a healthful diet is consuming a wide variety of foods. However, some foods that younger people find useful or at least not particularly harmful may be bad for seniors. Certain raw foods, for example, are risky because they can have a lot of germs in them.

As people age, their bodies often find it harder and harder to fight off germs. Therefore, germs in food are more and more likely to

cause sickness in people as they get older. The risk of illness from raw foods is even greater among older people who are already affected by such factors as diabetes, kidney disease, and certain kinds of cancer treatments.
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Just about any raw food can pose a potential germ risk for seniors. However, the raw foods listed below are the ones of greatest concern.

Raw fish are a significant threat for seniors, so sushi should be bypassed in favor of cooked fish. Many people regard raw shellfish as a fine delicacy, but older stomachs are better served by any number of great recipes for cooked clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops.

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Raw meat should, of course, be avoided. The same is true for raw poultry.

Dairy products are another category of concern. They include raw or unpasteurized milk or cheese. Unfortunately, seniors also have to be careful about many popular soft cheeses, such as blue, Brie, feta, and Mexican style.

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Raw or lightly cooked eggs and egg products are also on the list. Those products include many sauces, cake batters, cookie doughs, salad dressings, and egg-based drinks such as eggnog.

Raw sprouts should be avoided. Many kinds of sprouts can be briefly cooked without losing their crunchiness. Or another vegetable can be substituted.

Seniors should not drink unpasteurized or untreated juice from fruits or vegetables. In the United States, almost all commercially sold juice is treated to kill germs. Such juice is safe to drink. The Food and Drug Administration requires a warning label on all juices that have not been treated. The label reads: “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and therefore may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with a weak immune system.”
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Seniors who want to get more information about protecting themselves from raw-food germs have the following options: Food and Drug Administration, Food Information and Seafood Hotline, 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366); U.S. Department of Agriculture, Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-800-535-4555; and Partnership for Food Safety Education, http://www.ghtbac.org.

(Principal source: “Food Safety for Seniors,” Federal Citizens Information Center, http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/food/foodsafetyfs/services.pdf)

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