Every year, one in six people gets food poisoning, and 3,000 die from it, according to the Center for Disease Control.  Seniors are especially at risk. As we age, our immune systems weaken, and our bodies lose their ability to fight off disease caused by bacteria in our food. Certain foods are more likely than others to carry food-borne illnesses.



To stay safe the US Food and Drug Administration recommends that seniors avoid the following foods:


  • Raw shellfish, such as oysters, mussels and clams, and raw fin fish, such as that found in sushi and sashimi.
  • Luncheon meats and hot dogs, unless they’re reheated until steaming hot.
  • Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover and radish. The warm, humid conditions sprouts are grown in are also ideal for bacteria, which can get trapped in the sprouts.
  • Raw or unpasteurized cheese, such as Brie, feta, Camembert, and Mexican-style cheeses like queso fresco.
  • Raw or lightly cooked egg. Watch out for cookie dough, salad dressing, and certain drinks, such as eggnog.
  • Refrigerated pate’ or meat spreads (canned are okay).
  • Refrigerated seafood, such as lox or smoked salmon (canned seafood is okay).
  • Raw meat, such as carpaccio.
  •  Unpasteurized fruit or vegetable juices. In the US, these juices will have a warning on the label.

Keep It Cold & Clean!

To further reduce the risk of getting a food-borne illness, make sure to use your refrigerator properly. Always keep the refrigerator at 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) or below and the freezer at 0 degrees F (-18 C). Ready-to-eat foods should be consumed as soon as possible. Keep your refrigerator clean; spills can harbor bacteria.


About the Author

Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Complete Care Strategies