Adults 65 and older are at a higher risk for hospitalization and death from foodborne illness. For example, older adults residing in nursing homes are ten times more likely to die from bacterial gastroenteritis than the general population. As data shows, food safety is particularly important for adults 65 and older.
This increased risk of foodborne illness is because our organs and body systems go through changes as we age. These changes include:
The gastrointestinal tract holds on to food for a longer period of time, allowing bacteria to grow.
The liver and kidneys may not properly rid our bodies of foreign bacteria and toxins.
The stomach may not produce enough acid. The acidity helps to reduce the number of bacteria in our intestinal tract. Without proper amounts of acid, there is an increased risk of bacterial growth.
Underlying chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, may also increase a person’s risk of foodborne illness.
Number of Confirmed Cases in Adults 65 and older in 2013
% of Adults 65 and Older Hospitalized from Pathogen in 2013
E. coli 0157
E. coli non-0157
What You Can Do
Learn about safety tips for those at increased risk of foodborne illness. Older adults should always follow the four steps:
Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
Separate: Separate raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat foods
Cook: Cook food to the right temperatures
Chill: Chill raw meat and poultry as well as cooked leftovers promptly (within 2 hours)
If you or someone you care for receives prepared meals, visit our home delivered meals page for information on how to keep these safe.
Download our FoodKeeper application to make sure you are storing food and beverages properly, and using them within recommended storage guidelines.
Food Safety for Older Adults Brochure (FDA)
A need-to-know guide for those 65 years of age and older.
Seniors Need Wisdom on Food Safety (USDA)
Seniors become more at-risk for foodborne illness and, once ill, it can take them longer to recover.