Seniors, caregivers need food safety education

While healthcare providers and caregivers understand foodborne pathogens and can recognize food safety practices, they need additional training to teach seniors safe food handling. Whether living independently or in a congregate setting, foodborne infections pose a serious, even deadly, threat to older adults.

Researchers at RIT International and Tennessee State University conducted telephone-based focus groups between March and May 2010, with healthcare professionals, providers and relative caregivers. Their study findings indicate that the participants were knowledgeable about foodborne pathogens and could identify food safety risk factors. However, while they could identify these practices, their understanding of safe food handling techniques varied.

Lead author and RTI policy analyst Kelly Wohlgenant said in a release: “The study highlights a need to integrate food safety education into preventive healthcare for older adults.” Food safety brochures, posters, wall charts and downloadable video presentations would help caregivers and seniors incorporate safe handling practices in their kitchens.

As sensory perceptions diminish during the aging process, seniors may become at risk for foodborne illnesses. For example, an older adult might not toss away a package of meat that is going bad because a weakened sense of smell and poor eyesight. In addition, decreased stomach acid production raises their susceptibility to foodborne illness, the study explains.

In August, a salmonella outbreak in Nebraska senior care center sickened 19 people, five of whom required hospitalization.

Some Do’s and Don’ts to reduce the risk of foodborne illness for seniors

In 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture updated dietary requirements for various demographics, including seniors, is required.


  • Eat cheeses and yogurt made with pasteurized milk
  • Drink only pasteurized milk and juices
  • Heat deli meats and hot dogs to 165°F
  • Wash hands thoroughly


  • Eat raw or undercooked seafood
  • Eat food containing raw eggs
  • Cross  contaminate

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

Topics: Articles , Nutrition