By : Mary Brown
“What melts in your mouth, might swell in your belly” – Anonymous.
With weakened immune system accompanying Old Age, elderly specifically over 65 are particularly susceptible to a bout of severe food poisoning, which might be sometimes even life-threatening.
While most of the younger people recover readily from food poisoning without any treatment, older people are always at higher risk as it’s harder for their immune system to fight off germs. As food poisoning isn’t just an irritant, it can lead to precarious complications such as severe dehydration.
Older people do take a lot to recover from food poisoning and if you have any symptom as such, seek for sound medical help right away.
Here is a list of some food items to be careful with, which is also advisable to anyone with a weakened immune system, an underlying health condition, babies, young children and pregnant women:
Bugs to blame
- E. coli
Do avoid consuming ripened soft cheese like brie, camembert and other soft blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Danish blue and any unpasteurized soft cheese. It can be risky to have such cheeses when you’re older as these might be less acidic with more moisture than harder cheeses, providing an ideal environment for the growth of food-poisoning bugs, chiefly listeria. Always prefer cooked soft cheeses as heat kills such bacteria.
Try to remain steer clear of all fresh or chilled pate, including vegetable pate as these can be contaminated with listeria. Instead opt for harmless tinned pate as it would surely have gone through heat treatment as part of the canning process.
Do avoid foods containing raw or undercooked eggs such as eggnog, hollandaise sauce or homemade mayonnaise as these increases the risk of salmonella food poisoning. Always cook eggs until the whites and yolks are solid to prevent digestive troubles. And if you prefer to relish a dish which contains raw or partially cooked egg, then it’s always safer to use pasteurized eggs.
Cold Meat products
Cold meat products like pepperoni, Parma ham, salami and chorizo are not properly cooked. These are just fermented and cured, thus there’s always a higher risk of food poison causing parasites called toxoplasmosis. Do check and follow all the instructions on the packing to confirm whether the product needs cooking first or is ready-to-serve.
For ready-to-serve meats, any risk engaging food poisoning parasites can be effectively reduced by freezing the cured or fermented meats for four days at home before you consume them, as freezing kills most parasites. And if you’re cooking your meat then you don’t need to freeze it first.
If you’re opting for meat in a restaurant which might not have been frozen, just ask the concerned staff or avoid it.
Undercooked or Raw poultry
Do avoid undercooked barbecues or raw chicken – specifically sausages or chicken burgers – which may harbor fierce food poisoning bugs such as E. coli, salmonella or campylobacter.
Ensure that meat or poultry is cooked thoroughly and there is no trace of blood or pink left. Always remember to wash your hands and all the knives and entire kitchen surfaces after cooking poultry or raw meat to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
Raw Shellfish such as lobster, mussels, crab, scallops, prawns and clams might contain poisonous viruses and bacteria which can activate food poisoning. Thoroughly cooked Shellfish is as safe as freeze pre-cooked prawns.
Dishes such as Sushi made of raw fish would do fine as long as the raw fish is frozen first. Raw fish occasionally contains small parasitic worms which might lead to food poisoning, but freezing slays such harmful worms and makes the raw fish safer to consume.
Sushi sold in restaurant is usually bought; therefore it is safe to eat as it’s a usual practice to freeze it appropriately beforehand.
And if you are planning to prepare your own sushi at home, first freeze the raw fish for at least three to four days prior to cooking.
Avoid drinking raw or unpasteurized milk. Instead, opt for pasteurized or ultra-heat treated (UHT) milk – often called the long-life milk.
Though usually all the milk sold in shops or supermarkets would be either UHT or pasteurized; unpasteurized milk can be directly bought from farms, farm shops or at those farmers’ markets which are registered.
Be very cautious of lightly cooked or raw bean sprouts as these are a budding source of harmful food poisoning viruses.
The warm, humid weather required for sprout farming also provide ideal platform for the rapid growth of harmful bugs. Just ensure to cook all sprouted seeds thoroughly until they’re steaming hot throughout before eating them.
5 ways to avoid food poisoning
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before cooking or eating.
- Store the food items (specifically non veg. items) below 5 degrees C or in a freezer.
- Carefully follow all the food preparation instructions.
- Avoid eating food after its expiry date, even if it appears or smells fine.
- Don’t keep leftover food in the fridge for more than two days and steam it thoroughly before consumption.