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When in Doubt, Throw it Out! Seniors and Food Safety

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Food Safety In the past, going out to eat was reserved for special celebrations. Today eating meals at home has become more of the exception than the rule.  The convenience of pre-prepared meals from a restaurant or grocery store is very appealing to older adults. Eating out with friend and family offers a great opportunity socialize, eat mouth-watering food and forgo cooking duties. Whether you choose to eat at a diner, deli, restaurant or a senior living facility like Bethany Village  there are precautions you should take to ensure the food you eat is safe.

Always watch for signs that clean, sanitary practices are in place.  If you notice the dining room is not well organized or dirty, you may question if the kitchen is also operated in the same way. Check the dishes and bathrooms and note if the floor has been swept.  All these are clues to help you evaluate whether or not the business is diligent about safe food practices.  

When going out to eat and others are handling your food, be sure to order the food thoroughly cooked.  Meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs can be harmful if not cooked fully or if left sitting out too long at room temperature. Don’t hesitate to send back food if it’s not hot enough, or just doesn't look right to you. Ask the server how the food is prepared before placing your order, or ask to speak with the chef. Bottom line- always take a good look at your food when it is served to you!

Although it sounds like common sense, when dining out, avoid any foods you typically would avoid at home. Sometimes the urge to splurge tempts us to eat something not normally eaten. There are some things that seniors should avoid such as unpasteurized (raw) juice, milk, or milk products made with unpasteurized milk. Keep in mind that some soft cheeses such as feta, queso blanco, brie, and camembert are made with unpasteurized milk.

Many times, restaurants serve up far more food served than anyone – especially seniors with smaller appetites – could possibly eat in one sitting.  A doggie bag or to-go box is very common these days.  A good rule to remember is leftovers must be refrigerated (or frozen) within two hours of receiving the food. There are many tasty alternatives when eating out, food may be hot or cold, but these restaurant meals are perishable and can cause illness if not handled properly. Keeping food warm is not good enough to prevent harmful bacteria from growing. Check food temperature with a food thermometer as a safety precaution. 

Don't hesitate to get rid of food that is no longer safe. Don't keep refrigerated leftovers more than 3 to 4 days. Even if the food looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat after that time. When in doubt, throw it out!


Written by Bethany Village

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