Avoid Food-Borne Illness When Cooking
Let’s be honest: for many of us, one of life’s greatest pleasures is preparing and eating a delicious, filling meal. As we age, cooking and cleaning can become a challenge, but that doesn’t mean we have to forgo the pleasure of producing our favorite dishes.
At Morgan Lane Assisted Living in Tea, SD, we encourage our residents to continue to bake and prepare their own food if they choose, knowing that our facility offers a meal plan for residents who are no longer interested in or able to cook for themselves. While independent living is our goal, our services are tailored to the level of care you need. Today, we’d like to provide you with a few tips on how to prevent food-borne illness in your assisted living apartment.
Seniors Are at Added Risk of Getting Sick
The CDC estimates nearly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) becomes ill (with 128,000 hospitalized) from foodborne illnesses each year. Nearly 3,000 individuals annually die from food poisoning. Because their immune systems tend to be weakened due to pre-existing conditions, senior adults are particularly vulnerable to foodborne disease.
Older individuals may also have decreased sensitivity to how food looks, tastes or smells, and miss ques that could indicate that foods have gone bad. Food safety is key in greatly reducing the number and severity of cases of food poisoning among assisted living residents.
Examples of Foodborne Pathogens
· E. coli
· Hepatitis A
Common Symptoms of Food Poisoning
· Abdominal Pain and Cramps
· Weakness and Fatigue
· Muscle Aches
Food Handling Rules
While it requires particular attention to avoid becoming sick from contaminated food, this does not have to keep you from cooking your own meals in our retirement community, provided you follow a few basic rules:
Hygiene: Wash your hands for a half-minute or so before touching any food. Remove any rings or bracelets, which could hold pathogens or could fall off and into ingredients. In addition, senior care residents will find that wearing an apron will prevent contaminants (such as E. coli) on clothing from transferring to food and vice versa.
Clean Your Work Area: A sterile work area and clean utensils are a must when prepping meals. A simple solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water is sufficient for sanitizing hands and surfaces.
Avoid Cross Contamination: When prepping ingredients, use a separate cutting board and utensils for raw or undercooked meat, including poultry and fish, and store them away from other food items. Never reuse marinades and be sure to keep marinating foods in the fridge, rather than on the counter. Thaw all frozen meats in the refrigerator, and be sure to use hot, soapy water to clean up the work area and utensils when food prep is complete.
Watch Temperatures: Use a meat thermometer to guarantee all meats are cooked to the proper temperature. Hot foods should be held at 140 degrees when serving, and cold foods should stay at 40 degrees or below.
Use Items Promptly: It’s easy for time to get away from us, and food we think we just bought may actually be weeks old when we get around to using it. Additionally, food items may get pushed to the back of the refrigerator and quickly forgotten. It helps to cook or freeze meat within a couple of days of bringing it home. Mark all containers with a date before putting them into the fridge or freezer.
Choose Quality Groceries: When shopping for groceries, avoid packages that have tears or are leaking. If you discover you have purchased an item that has been opened, return it to the store or throw it away. Once you have opened a package, store it in an airtight container or wrapping as air speeds up spoilage.
Avoid buying cans that have been dented or otherwise damaged. If you notice rust, swelling or denting on a can, or suspect it has been stored in temperatures above 90 degrees, throw it out.
Assisted Living Care at Its Finest
Morgan Lane Assisted Living Community, your health is important to us. If you have further questions about how to reduce the chance of contracting a foodborne illness, please contact us. If you are concerned that you or your loved one is no longer capable of safely making healthy, nutritional meals, we would be happy to discuss our meal program with you.