Food can be unsafe

”Now I need to cook this fish to a safe minimum internal temperature.”

by National Institute of Health

Food can be unsafe for many reasons. It might be contaminated by germs—microbes such as bacteria, viruses, or molds. These microbes might have been present before the food was harvested or collected, or they could have been introduced during handling or preparation. In either case, the food might look fine but could make you very sick. Food can also be unsafe because it has “gone bad.” Sometimes, you may see mold growing on the surface.

For an older person, a food-related illness can be life threatening. As you age, you have more trouble fighting off microbes. Health problems, like diabetes or kidney disease, also make you more likely to get sick from eating foods that are unsafe. So be careful about how food is prepared and stored.

Some foods present higher risks than others. Here are some tips on selecting lower-risk food options:

Eat fish, shellfish, meat, and poultry that have been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature, instead of eating the food raw or undercooked.

Drink pasteurized milk and juices instead of the unpasteurized versions.

Make sure pasteurized eggs or egg products are used in recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs, such as homemade Caesar salad dressings, raw cookie dough, or eggnog.

Always wash vegetables, including all salad ingredients, before eating. Cooked vegetables also are a lower-risk option than raw vegetables.

Choose cooked sprouts instead of raw sprouts.

Choose hard or processed cheeses, cream cheese, or mozzarella, or any cheese that is clearly labeled “Made from Pasteurized Milk” instead of soft cheese made from unpasteurized (raw) milk, such as Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, or queso fresco.

Heat up hot dogs, deli meats, and luncheon meats to 165 °F (steaming hot), instead of eating the meat unheated.

Changing Taste and Smell

As you grow older, your senses of taste and smell might change. Some illnesses, like COVID-19, or health conditions can change your senses of smell and taste. Certain medicines might also make things taste different. If you can’t rely on your sense of taste or smell to tell that food is spoiled, be extra careful about how you handle your food. If something doesn’t look, smell, or taste right, throw it out—don’t take a chance with your health.

Smart Storage

Food safety starts with storing your food properly. Sometimes that’s as simple as following directions on the container. For example, if the label says “refrigerate after opening,” do that! It’s also a good idea to keep any canned and packaged items in a cool place.

When you are ready to use a packaged food, check the date on the label. That bottle of juice might have been in your cabinet so long it is now out of date. (See Reading Food Labels to understand the date on the food label.)

Try to use refrigerated leftovers within 3 or 4 days to reduce your risk of food poisoning. Throw away foods older than that or those that show moldy areas.

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